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The Obamas: First Couple of Fitness

Will the exercise program of Barack and Michelle Obama inspire Americans?

Obama Exercise Program: What Keeps Them Moving? continued...

During that campaign, Cauley says, "Everybody fought for his time. [But] he was adamant he got his workout time."

Even when the schedule was jam-packed. "His logic was always, 'The rest of my time will be more productive if you give me my workout time,'" Cauley tells WebMD. "I never worked out with him, but I can speak to his need for it."

The workout time got penned in, more often than not. "When he had a big moment in the campaign -- like a debate -- we always gave him time," Cauley says. "It was almost part of the debate preparation."

He kept up that same routine during his presidential bid and after he won the election. Last month, it was reported that he had gone to the gym for 90 minutes a day for at least 48 days straight.

Besides using fitness to stay in shape and help clear his head, Cauley thinks Obama saw it as valuable "alone" time, especially after he gave up driving himself to campaign events. "He had less time to himself," he says of those days after he had a driver. He thinks that made the workouts, especially the solo ones, even more precious.

The same seems true for the new first lady, Cauley says. "She used to get up early" to work out, he says. "The two of them are pretty methodical and very into working out." According to press reports, she gets in 90-minute workouts three times a week.  

Obama Exercise Program: Obsessive or Not?

While some may wonder if the new president is a bit obsessive about his fitness, exercise experts say he's anything but, noting that he is following exercise guidelines.

Under current guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adult Americans should strive for two and a half hours a week of moderate aerobic physical activity, and kids should get an hour or more of physical activity a day. The workouts should include not only cardio strengthening routines such as running, hiking, or brisk walking but also strength training for adults (such as weight lifting) and muscle strengthening for kids (such as rope climbing).

Less than 65% of adult Americans met those guidelines in 2007, according to a report published in December 2008 in the CDC's Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

Calling the Obamas' exercise program excessive is incorrect, says Angela Smith, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Children's Hospital, Philadelphia, and past president of the American College of Sports Medicine. She points out they both do a mix of activities. They not only follow the recommendations for the suggested time, but have well-rounded routines including cardio and strength training.

"If someone is doing push-ups for 90 minutes a day, that's excessive," she says.

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