16 February 2015

Presidential fitness

In honor of President's Day, I did some research (ok, Googling) on our country's presidents to see who made the list of the fittest. Some you may know, others, maybe not.

According to Professor Tim Blessing, who has studied presidential fitness since 1972, "Presidents fixate on exercise for a number of reasons. It’s a source of stress relief for the man holding down what is arguably the world’s highest pressure job. It helps elevate the mood. It can make those doing the exercising appear sportsmanlike, i.e. strong and presidential. Or, like Clinton’s designation as the fast food president or Obama’s fondness for pickup basketball, it can project the image of an everyman."

Not to mention that the pure routine of regular exercise has kept presidents steady over the years. Says Blessing, “It wasn’t so much that they were doing exercise so that they’re better in the office — rather their lives are so organized that keeping fit is like another box they check off. For them, exercise is just something they should be doing and they do it.”

He also notes that few of the United States’ 43 presidents have been out of shape. The exceptions? William Howard Taft, weighing roughly 350 pounds, who got stuck in the White House bathtub more than once. Grover Cleveland didn’t exercise and was a heavy smoker. And Franklin Pierce drank too much.

But most have incorporated physical activity into their daily lives. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading.”

So, who're the top five fittest presidents in our nation's history?

1) Gerald Ford - A standout football player at the U of Michigan, he was courted by the Green Bay Packers to play pro. While in office, he swam every day (in a pool he had constructed on the White House grounds for that specific reason). Whoa.

Ford in his college days. 
2) Teddy Roosevelt - In addition to his avid big game hunting and widely-photographed horseback riding, Roosevelt also hiked, wrestled, boxed, fenced, rock-climbed, played tennis and was taught jujitsu (while in office, no less)! All of this after being an asthmatic child and rather sickly in his youth.

The consummate sportsman.
3) Ronald Reagan - Reagan grew up playing football and swimming—saving a total of 77 people throughout his seven summers as a lifeguard in Illinois. He made fitness a priority in his presidency as well, although it was said he worked out more for fun than to maintain a specific level of fitness.

A perfect-looking lifeguard, for 1927. 
4) Barack Obama - His love of basketball is widely known and the White House games are apparently intense enough to warrant a mouth guard. In addition to his daily workouts (usually for an hour, and if it's not hoops, it's circuit training with weights as well as sometimes boxing and running), he also has a clean diet, much more closely monitored than that of his predecessors.

5) George W. Bush - He played baseball and played rugby while at Yale; by the time he was president, he was a regular runner and mountain biker, running four times a week. He also routinely cross-trained with swimming, free weights and an elliptical trainer.

Props to W, rugby is not for wimps.
Not so good for the face punch, though.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, here's a list for fittest Heads of State globally from Health Fitness Revolution.

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