ACLM to honor Jack and Elaine LaLanne and Dr. Kenneth Cooper for lifetime achievement

“Jack LaLanne, Elaine LaLanne and Dr. Kenneth Cooper inspired millions of people to take control of their health and embrace physical activity and nutrition to live healthier and longer lives,” said ACLM President Cate Collings, MD, FACC, MS, DipABLM.

Jack LaLanne, aka “the Godfather of fitness,” twice swam handcuffed from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, including once at age 60, his ankles also shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat. A showman, inventor, and exercise guru, he performed superhuman feats of strength and, along with his wife Elaine LaLanne, attracted worldwide attention to the transformational health benefits of a commitment to physical activity and nutrition.

Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, wrote the best-selling book Aerobics, which sparked a worldwide fitness movement after it was published in 1968. He is the data-driven founder of The Cooper Institute®, the renowned nonprofit established in 1970 that has proven the benefits of regular physical activity and the links between fitness and prevention of chronic diseases.

They were different people, with different styles. But all were lifelong trailblazers in their advocacy of physical activity and a healthy diet  ­̶  two key pillars of the growing medical specialty of lifestyle medicine. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) will honor the LaLannes and Dr. Cooper with Lifetime Achievement Awards Nov. 13-16 at its 2022 Lifestyle Medicine Annual Conference at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Fla.

Presentation of the LaLannes’ award was delayed in 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic and will be presented at the Orlando conference to Elaine, who partnered with her husband to spread awareness of the health benefits of physical activity and nutrition. Jack LaLanne died in 2011 at age 96. Dr. Cooper will receive the 2022 award in person at the conference.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honor bestowed on a lifestyle medicine health care pioneer. This award recognizes an eminent and influential body of work over a significant span of time that advanced the field of Lifestyle Medicine; and, in the process, paved the way for others to follow. The award is presented to individuals who have been devoted to the cause of lifestyle medicine for half of their lives or more. Previous recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award are Dean Ornish, MD, FACLM, T. Colin Campbell, PhD; Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD, FACLM; and John McDougall, MD.

“Jack LaLanne, Elaine LaLanne and Dr. Kenneth Cooper inspired millions of people to take control of their health and embrace physical activity and nutrition to live healthier and longer lives,” said ACLM President Cate Collings, MD, FACC, MS, DipABLM. “They are true giants in the field of lifestyle medicine and the world is a healthier place because of them. ACLM is proud to honor these health and wellness pioneers for their outstanding achievements at our annual conference, the nation’s premier gathering of lifestyle medicine experts.”

The 2022 conference, “Rebuilding Healthcare Better,” is a hybrid event with in-person and virtual attendance options. It will showcase both research and practical examples of lifestyle medicine changing the face of medical education and clinical practice, to restore health to those living with chronic diseases. Attendees can earn up to 41.5 hours of continuing medical education, including AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™️. Credit hours are available for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, dietitians and health and wellness coaches.

A self-professed “junk food junkie” until age 15, LaLanne was in such poor health as a child that he stopped attending school for six months. After witnessing a life-changing health lecture by Paul Bragg in 1929, LaLanne resolved to change his lifestyle and joined the local YMCA, where he took up wrestling and eventually became an AAU champion. He also discovered weightlifting and, in 1936, opened the first modern health club, “The Jack LaLanne Physical Culture Studio.” He later earned a chiropractic degree, though he never used it. 

LaLanne advocated for exercise and nutrition at a time when modern home conveniences, such as TV ownership, made Americans increasingly less likely to engage in physical activity or care about the food they ate. He and Elaine countered this trend by developing a popular television exercise program, “The Jack LaLanne Show” that aired fitness programing directly to families in their homes for 34 years. One of LaLanne’s favorite sayings was “Exercise is King, Nutrition is Queen, put them together and you have a kingdom.”

 LaLanne is credited with creating prototypes of popular exercise equipment, including the weight selector, wall pulley, leg extension, resistance band and squat machine, now known as the Smith Machine, still found in gyms across the world today. He also created the first protein drink, “Instant Breakfast,” and protein bars.

“If Jack were alive today, he would be humbled, honored and grateful, as I am, for the prestigious ACLM Lifetime Achievement Award,” Elaine LaLanne said. “Throughout our almost 60 years together, he repeatedly said ‘All I want to do is help people to help themselves.’ The principles that ACLM advocates were his lifestyle; he lived it, breathed it, and taught it.

“In fact, he helped me change from a smoking, junk food junkie, to a 96 year old who is still here and lived a healthy, happy life,” she said. “My family and I are deeply moved at this recognition of lifetime achievement by ACLM.”

Dr. Cooper has advocated for exercise as medicine nationally and internationally for more than five decades. Early in his career, the Oklahoma City native produced the scientific evidence to overcome resistance from many in the medical community about his views on the powerful impact of exercise on health outcomes. He believed in the early adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors; his philosophy has been “It is easier to maintain good health through proper exercise, diet and emotional balance than to regain it once it is lost.”

Two years after the publication of Aerobics, Dr. Cooper founded The Cooper Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting lifelong health and wellness through research, education and advocacy. In 1989, The Journal of the American Medical Association published The Cooper Institute’s landmark study showing that being physically fit substantially decreased the risk for all-cause mortality. Dr. Cooper is passionate about reversing the childhood obesity epidemic and was instrumental in the State of Texas passing Senate Bill 530, a law requiring enhanced physical education levels and testing in schools. Since 1970, Dr. Cooper is founder and chairman of Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas  ̶  home of his six health and wellness companies and The Cooper Institute  ̶  where his son Tyler Cooper, MD, MPH, serves as President and CEO.

Dr. Cooper also has collaborated with major food corporations like PepsiCo to eliminate trans fats in foods in snack products, a trend other companies have followed worldwide.

“I’m honored to receive this lifetime achievement award alongside my friend Elaine LaLanne,” Dr. Cooper said. “The late Jack LaLanne and I both shared a passion for physical fitness and longevity and tried to set the example for people to follow. My goal is to live as long as Jack did, to 96 years of age. That’s why in my 91st year, I’m still working and enjoying life to the fullest.

“If people follow our guidelines, you can ‘square off the curve’ ̶  live a long, healthy life to the fullest, then die suddenly,” he said. “If that happens to me, I would say ‘Praise the Lord; it’s been a wonderful life and I have no regrets.’”

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