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The Obamas: First Couple of Fitness

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

Obama Exercise Program: Obsessive or Not? continued...

"I think he has a really good exercise program, one we should all be on," says William O. Roberts, MD, professor of family medicine at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, of the new president's routine. Roberts, a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, considers exercise as medicine in his practice.

"It's the cheapest, easiest thing to do [to improve health]," he says.

Following the exercise guidelines produces not only health benefits but other advantages, especially for high-powered people, says Gregg Miele, a Beverly Hills, Calif., personal trainer who has worked for singer Mary J. Blige and numerous other entertainment industry people. "I've worked with an artist who wrote his music in his head when he ran," Miele says. He suspects that Obama uses his workout time to problem-solve as well.

Obama Exercise Program: Will Their Fitness Habit Rub Off?

Colleagues who work out with Obama say his enthusiasm helps get them revved up about exercise, too.

"His dedication to it has inspired me," says King, the Chicago lawyer who often shoots hoops with Obama, "and hopefully his example will inspire many Americans to pay great attention to their health and fitness."

Exercise experts are hopeful that will be the case, too.

"Like it or not, they are going to be role models," says Angela Smith. "The Obamas have an incredible opportunity to influence fitness among adults and children." A good thing, she says, given the obesity epidemic among U.S. youths.

At the very least, observing the first couple's fitness routine may put the time crunch dilemma into perspective for the rest of us, others say. That Obama kept up the exercise routine throughout the grueling campaign is impressive, says Jeannie Moloo, RD, a Sacramento, Calif., dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Seeing the first couple manage to squeeze in exercise will be a wake-up call, she predicts. "It will make the rest of us wake up and say we don't have much room for excuses as far as the time factor goes."

Miele agrees. People may look at the ability of the Obamas to fit in workouts, consider how much less stressful their life is in comparison to the leader of the free world and his wife, and conclude: "Maybe I could find the time, too."

Obama Exercise Program: No Role Model Is Perfect

Part of the Obama appeal, say the experts, may be that they are not perfect role models. The new president has been known to sneak a cigarette or two, a bad habit he says he will give up.

"He's got to get that cigarette out of his mouth," says Roberts.

He's been seen eating a cheeseburger or two, although his post-workout snack has been described as trail mix washed down by organic tea.

If Moloo were counseling Obama, she would suggest he eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods to counteract the tobacco use.

As for the cheeseburgers? In moderation, they're fine, she says.

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Reviewed on January 16, 2009

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