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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...

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.

"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.

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