Political News

The Next Hurdle for a Healthy Trump? Getting Some Exercise.

Posted January 17, 2018 12:05 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON — He may be fit to be president, but he could be in better shape.

President Donald Trump received a glowing and extremely public assessment on Tuesday from Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician, who stressed that the president’s health was basically excellent: “It’s called genetics,” the doctor said as he explained Trump’s physical and cognitive health to reporters.

Trump’s four to five hours of sleep each night? Probably one of the reasons he has been successful, Jackson said.

The president’s less than stellar diet? Actually pretty healthy lately — minus the desserts — Jackson said.

An increase in the president’s weight coupled with a high-carb-high-fat diet and an apparent lack of interest in physical fitness were of particular interest to Trump’s doctor. Yet even on that point, Jackson had a positive, almost Trumpian-sounding prognosis: “The good part is that, you know, we can build on that pretty easily.”

The next challenge for Jackson and members of the first family will be convincing Trump — a dedicated homebody, know-it-all and creature of habit — that a new fitness routine will be crucial to helping him shed a recommended 10 to 15 pounds this year. (Trump’s current weight, 239 pounds on a 6-foot-3 frame, lingers at the brink of obesity on the body mass index, Jackson acknowledged.)

Trump will be encouraged to lower the fat and carbohydrate content of his diet, and will be encouraged by his wife, Melania Trump; his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump; and his doctor to get moving.

“He’s more enthusiastic about the diet part than the exercise part,” Jackson said.

Washington, a city populated by compulsively high achievers, often holds the mantle of the fittest city in the United States. So it is not surprising that the highest office in the land has drawn its fair share of fitness enthusiasts. Presidents Jimmy Carter, George Bush and Bill Clinton ran. President Ronald Reagan lifted weights.

Other presidents were fitness fanatics. President George W. Bush was a frequent 6:45-mile runner who would challenge his Secret Service detail to join the so-called 100-Degree Club — a group of agents who could keep up with him in the heat as he zipped around his 1,600-acre Texas ranch.

“I really like to run,” Bush said of the habit.

President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, brought in a trainer from Chicago to tailor exercise programs — the first lady’s signature platform goal was a program called “Let’s Move!” — and Barack Obama would pester members of his staff to join in.

David Axelrod, Obama’s former senior adviser, said in 2011 that the president had “always been on my butt about this, and as a result, my butt is a little bit smaller.”

But outside many cart-assisted games of golf, Trump has declined to latch on to an exercise program. Fitness experts say persuading Trump to change his lifestyle will be a matter of figuring out what might motivate him to add small amounts of movement to his day, be it a stroll in the Rose Garden or a walk on the golf course.

“People are not inclined to do what they’re told,” Jessica Matthews, a senior health adviser at the American Council on Exercise, said in an interview. “When they come up with their own solutions, you’d be surprised how readily excited and how able they are to make that change and do it long term.”

This might be particularly true for Trump, a man known to balk when told what to do. Ted Vickey, a former director of the White House Athletic Center, a fitness complex for employees of the executive branch, said in an interview that Trump’s love of golf — and, perhaps, maybe a wearable fitness tracker like a Fitbit — could be the key to improving his exercise routine.

“I’d say, ‘Mr. President, we could knock four strokes off your golf game if you exercised for the next three months,'” Vickey said. “And the Secret Service probably wouldn’t like it, but I’d tell him to walk the golf course rather than ride a golf cart.”

Whatever route he chooses, Trump has the ability to install whatever equipment he wants in the White House. (Past presidents used a converted bedroom on the top floor to work out in privacy.) Vickey, who said he was involved in helping to get a treadmill installed on Air Force One for George W. Bush, said that Bush also at one point requested an elliptical machine to be installed near a private outdoor pool and cabana in the White House. The equipment was there within 24 hours.

Denise Evans, who worked at the White House Athletic Center during the Reagan, Clinton and George Bush administrations, said that she would recommend that the president limit his Diet Coke habit to one a day, and start small with exercise.

A Pilates instructor, Evans said that she would recommend the classes to Trump to strengthen his core — yet another asset when improving a golf game.

“I don’t think it has to be anything crazy,” Evans said. “We want to keep him around at least for the next seven years. I’m a big Trump fan.”