As I'm sure you've heard by now, fitness icon and all around good guy, Jack LaLanne, died yesterday at the age of 96. LaLanne had an incredible career and was one of the true fitness pioneers, establishing the first major television fitness program in the 1950s, helping to spread the word on the immense benefits a healthy, active lifestyle can bring ever since. What you may not know is that among his laundry list of accomplishments, he lent his potent brand to the first ever exer-game, Jack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning, which was created in 1980 for Mattel's Keyboard Component add-on for the Intellivision. Unfortunately for the exer-gaming cause, the Keyboard Component only saw an extremely limited release before being pulled from the market and few of the 4,000 units produced remain in collectors' hands today. As with most of the rest of the Keyboard Component-specific software, precious few of the Jack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning cassette tapes remain.
Jack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning took advantage of the Keyboard Component cassette deck's impressive ability to synchronize both data and pre-recorded voice (this underrated feature was on a few other systems of the day, including the APF Imagination Machine and Atari 8-bit). As the graphical represenation of LaLanne would demonstrate each exercise, LaLanne's own voice would give instructions. Original music and sound effects from the system would also play. This was a wonderful way to bring a more interactive version of LaLanne's long running TV show into homes, and easily predated the videotape exercise craze started by Jane Fonda's Workout in 1982, and the next major exer-game in 1984, Spinnaker's Aerobics, for the Atari 8-bit and Commodore 64, which had fewer features and lacked speech.
You can see a brief glimpse of Jack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning, at approximately 44 seconds in from this 1980 Intellivision commercial:
Having written Wii Fitness for Dummies, one of the few major books on the subject of exer-gaming, and being a fitness devotee myself for over 20 years, it was with considerable sadness that I heard that one of the few celebrities that I actually looked up to passed. Like many others involved in physical fitness, I feel like I owe him a debt a gratitude. He certainly made all of his 96 years count, which is all any of us could really ask for in the end. LaLanne released his final book in 2009, Live Young Forever: 12 Steps to Optimum Health, Fitness and Longevity, which I highly recommend you check out.
Jack LaLane was an inspiration as well as a pioneer in the fitness industry, and was ahead of his time in so many ways.
By the way, Bill, thanks for highlighting yet another aspect of Mr. LaLanne's pioneering legacy. His contribution to this aspect of fitness was probably not mentioned, or even known, anywhere else in the media or on the Internet. Back when no one was associating videogaming with fitness, Jack was blazing yet another trail. Your post here was a well-written and important reminder of yet another contribution he made into the modern fitness world.
His contribution to this aspect of fitness was probably not mentioned, or even known, anywhere else in the media or on the Internet.
Thanks for that, Rob. Even though I could have put more time into the posting, I'm rather disappointed it wasn't picked up elsewhere. I can only guess that because of his unusually prolific career, it's easy to overlook something like pioneering fitness videogames...