At age 55, he stands six feet tall, weighs 186 pounds, and has a body fat percentage of 14%. By most any standard of fitness and good health, President George W. Bush is an exemplary man.
"That's very good for his age," says Mike Clark, a physical therapist and president of the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a nonprofit group that gives accreditation to sports trainers. "The average American male has 25% body fat. And the average percentage of body fat for a 55-year-old American male is in a completely different category."
How does he do it, given all the stress he is under and the constraints on his time? Simply put, he works out.
"Most cardiac events occur in men over the age of 55 and in women over the age of 65, so I'd say President Bush is not like most 55-year-olds," says Debra Atkinson, a lecturer in the department of health and human performance at Iowa State University and a private training and fitness consultant.
If the leader of the free world can be very fit and stay very fit through what is undoubtedly one of our country's toughest years in a long time, what's wrong with the rest of us?
If He Can Do It...
"Time is the number one reason given for not exercising regularly," says Atkinson. "President Bush likely has a day planner that would put us all to shame. But if you don't have your health, you have nothing. He is walking the walk when it comes to time management -- it's not a matter of managing time but of priorities."
According to information released by the White House, here's what he does most weeks:
- Elliptical machine two days a week
- Weight lifting two days a week
- Run four miles, four days a week
- Lots of stretching
At a recent news conference, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said "at the end of the president's business day, he will go back to the residence and go for a run, work out."
The president obviously has "a commitment to staying fit and active, and that is clear in his workout regimen," says Clark.
At his most recent physical exam in August at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., the president showed some of the results of his commitment.
According to the American Medical Association, which reviewed the exam's results, Bush's blood pressure is 106/70, and his resting heart rate is 44 beats per minute. After running on the treadmill for 27 minutes, his heart rate was 169 beats per minute. His high- and low-density lipoprotein levels are described as being "near optimal." The exam report also gave other important information on the president's health -- triglycerides, C-reactive protein, thyroid tests, and PSA level -- but suffice to say he's a very healthy man.
"Anyone who says they don't have time to exercise should take a look at what the president puts into his workouts and also what he gets out of them," says Clark. "These are amazing numbers across the board. If he can do this while running the country, then more of us should try to be like him."
Is He Overdoing It?
News reports out at the time of the recent exam said the president could bench press 190 pounds.
According to the ratio of weight lifted to body weight, the president falls between 'excellent' and 'superior,'" says Atkinson. "You pick."
But what about all that running? Four miles four days a week is a lot of impact for 55-year-old joints.
"The stress on his body may at some point be an issue for Bush," says Atkinson. However, it probably doesn't compare with the stress on his mind, which has been said to find a release in running. "He wouldn't be the first runner to claim clarity from running that he doesn't find elsewhere."
Clark agrees. "The president puts in the kind of time we all should be putting in, whether that's walking, swimming, or what have you," he says. "For a long time we've been told that 30 minutes of activity three times a week is enough. But it's not. We need more like an hour every day of activity to stay healthy."
Your best bet to get an effective, daily exercise plan off the ground is to get an evaluation from an accredited sports trainer, says Clark. The evaluation will show your current fitness level, and the trainer can then develop a exercise plan to help you meet your fitness goals.