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

The Obamas are making history, not just as the first African-American president and first lady, but perhaps also as the fittest first couple ever.

That role model, in turn, may inspire millions of sedentary Americans to get moving, exercise and preventive health experts hope.

Both the new president and first lady are regular exercisers, managing to squeeze in workouts despite their hectic schedules. It's difficult not to admire their dedication. When in Chicago, the new first lady was said to begin her day with a 4:30 a.m. gym workout.

Instead of kicking back and getting some extra sleep the day after he won the election, Obama showed up at his gym at 7 a.m. for a workout. The new president's washboard abs -- snapped by photographers during his Hawaii vacation -- rival that of a 30-something leading man in Hollywood.

Comparisons aside, it's clear that exercise is serious business for the Obamas -- and more about maintaining health and mental acuity than looking good.

"Barack is almost religious about getting in his workouts," says Alan S. King, a close friend of Obama's and an attorney at Drinker Biddle & Reath in Chicago. "He values his workout time as time to think and relieve stress. I'd say he's also driven by the fact that he wants to be fit and healthy to be around for Michelle and the girls [daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7]."

Obama Exercise Program: The Routine

The new president's workout program would put many men half his age to shame. Obama, 47, combines his love of basketball with treadmill workouts and weight training, say those who have observed his workouts or played hoops with him.

Obama told Men's Health magazine in its November issue that his typical routine includes working out for 45 minutes, six days a week, including cardiac-strengthening routines and weight lifting. That's in addition to his famous basketball games -- played whenever possible and always on election days.

"He alternates days between strength and cardio training and gets in as much basketball as his schedule permits,'' King tells WebMD.

Irene Trantas, a master trainer at the Philadelphia Sports Club at Rodin, observed Obama work out on three different occasions when he stopped in while on the road. "You could definitely tell he has a routine, he works out, and he is familiar with the routine," she tells WebMD. During his stops there, he combined a treadmill run and elliptical trainer with weight training, including the chest press, overhead press, leg press and other conditioning exercises, she says. "He is strong."

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