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Fitness royalty Elaine and Jack LaLanne were happily married for 51 years. She shares her 3 secrets to lasting love.

October 10, 20233 min read

LaLanne News

This article was written by Kim Schewitz for Business Insider

Elaine and Jack LaLanne, the first lady and godfather of fitness, are known for inspiring Americans to eat better and exercise more since the 1950s. But we could also learn a thing or two about how to make love last from the husband-wife duo.

The pair met in 1951 on a variety show that Elaine, then known as Elaine Doyle, hosted in San Francisco. A press agent called her to ask if she'd be interested in having a local bodybuilder called Jack LaLanne come on the show and simply do push-ups for its 90-minute duration. She said yes.

Jack was a hit and was soon offered his own show on the same network. Although Elaine told Insider the pair "hit it off" when they met, it took two years of Jack asking her out when he saw her in the studio, and badgering her about her then-unhealthy lifestyle, before they finally went on their first date in January 1953. Six years later, they were married.

In the 51 happy years that they spent together before Jack died aged 96 in 2011, they not only raised a son together but built a fitness empire encompassing "The Jack LaLanne Show," as well as equipment, supplements, and a gym chain with over 100 locations.

"I have not only lost my husband and a great American icon, but the best friend and most loving partner anyone could ever hope for," Elaine wrote after his death.

"We had a meeting of the minds," Elaine, 97, told Insider. "I didn't fall in love with his body. I fell in love with his brain."

Elaine shared her three keys to a long-lasting and happy marriage with Insider.

Be together but independent

Elaine said that even though they enjoyed doing things together — including her dragging him along to parties — she and her husband had their independence and supported each other's endeavors, which experts say is key for a long-lasting relationship.

"Let him be him, and let me be me," she said.

One such example was Jack deciding, at age 60, to swim the 1.5 miles from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco with his hands and feet shackled while towing a thousand-pound boat to challenge his physical bounds. Elaine was worried but didn't stand in his way.

"You couldn't talk him out of these things. When my man wanted to do it, I would say, 'OK, I'm with you,'" she told the Los Angeles Times in 2012.

Looking on the bright side

Elaine said friendship was the key to her bond with Jack. They laughed a lot, she said, and both wanted to focus on the positives in life. When disagreements did happen, they found light and creative ways to resolve them, she said.

"When we were building our house, we had a little to-do about where we should put the [kitchen] island. And so we decided, okay, let's put a little ring [down] here, and we'll step into this ring, and then we'll make some kind of a decision. And we did," she said.

Learning new skills together

Elaine and Jack enjoyed learning new things and having adventures, such as water skiing, she said. He would instruct her in the gym too, and they'd do weights and swim together, she told the Los Angeles Times.

It seems they were on to something as one 2021 study found that long-term couples who did exciting, shared activities together, reported feeling closer for longer periods of time than those who did familiar, comfortable activities, such as going to dinner and a movie.

Kim Schewitz

Kim Schewitz is a Junior Health Reporter who covers health news and trends, psychology, relationships, women's health, nutrition, and marginalized communities. She is a gold standard NCTJ qualified journalist with a degree in French and Spanish from the University of Bristol, and has previously written for VICE, The i paper, and GLAMOUR UK. You can find her on Twitter or get in touch at [email protected].

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