Updated: February 18, 2019
A great many of our nation’s leaders are physically fit, and have been since the birth of America. The following list serves up some of the more notable workout routines of presidents past.
#3 – Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson understood the importance of health. He was an advocate for exercise and recreation—both of which can enhance overall well-being. Jefferson once said, “Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading.” Health experts tend to agree with Jefferson’s balanced approach. However, even an hour of reading burns about 50 calories.
#6 – John Quincy Adams
What’s better than a morning swim? A great answer is, walking two miles (each way) to do it. That’s exactly what John Quincy Adams did during his time as President. He spent his mornings walking to and from the Potomac River, where he “bathed.” According to legend he almost lost his clothes to the river current on more than one occasion. Oops. One hour of swimming burns between 400 and 800 calories.
#16 – Abe Lincoln
It’s safe to say President Lincoln was a beast in his younger years. With a reputation for splitting rails (aka chopping wood) with nothing but an axe and brut muscle, his arms must have been as chiseled as his face. Chopping wood is pure cardio, and purely presidential. An hour of this manly exercise burns between 400 and 500 calories.
#31 – Herbert Hoover
In an effort to stay in shape, President Hoover and his physician created an actual game that was, arguably, ahead of its time. Hooverball, a concoction of volleyball and medicine ball throwing, is becoming a favorite of local CrossFit gyms. There’s even an annual Hooverball tournament at Hoover’s hometown in Iowa. It’s unclear how many calories you’ll burn playing this, but a one-hour medicine ball workout burns between 150 and 250 calories (depending on your size and the weight of the ball).
#33 – Harry S. Truman
Many of us start the day off with a walk around the neighborhood. President Truman started his mornings walking around the Capitol. He’d put in several miles a day, taking his Secret Service agents with him. This footage of Truman out-walking the press might inspire you to put a little pep in your step next time you take a walk. One hour of walking burns between 150 and 250 calories per hour.
#35 – John F. Kennedy
President Kennedy’s affinity for exercise, physical fitness and healthy Americans was clear throughout his career. In fact, physical fitness was a benchmark of his election campaign, and he remained committed to the cause until his untimely death in 1963. Watch his speech about the importance of a fit and healthy country here. (Like reading, an hour of public speaking burns about 50 calories.)
#38 – Gerald Ford
Physically fit from the start, President Ford played football at the University of Michigan. There, he lettered three years in a row at the center position. In Washington, however, he turned to swimming to stay in shape; he even had an outdoor pool installed on the White House grounds. Incidentally, his alma mater re-retired his football jersey in 2015. You can burn a ton of calories playing football for an hour.
#40 – Ronald Reagan
Like Lincoln, Ronald Reagan chopped wood at his ranch in California as a means of staying fit. He also pumped iron in the gym, which made him a threat to more than just the Russians at the time. In fact, Reagan’s regimen was so detailed, he wrote about it for Parade Magazine. The story, authored by the President himself, ran in 1983. Depending on your size, you can burn between 100 and 200 calories lifting weights for just one hour.
#42 – Bill Clinton
Forrest Gump—an award winning film about an individual with a penchant for running (among other talents)—debuted in 1994 and become a hit at the box office. That same year, in the Oval Office, was a President who, like Gump, loved to run. Bill Clinton and the Secret Service ran to and from the “golden arches” restaurants on several occasions throughout his administration. A fast food double cheeseburger has more than 500 calories.
#44 – Barack Obama
During his two terms, President Obama got most of his workouts on the hardwood. He’s an avid hoops fan who’s helped sportscasters predict “bracket busters” before college basketball’s Big Dance. As President, Obama even offered jump shot advice to NBA greats such as Golden State’s Steph Curry. Shooting hoops alone for an hour will burn about 300 calories, while an hour of full-court game play burns about 750 calories.
You don’t have to occupy the Oval Office to get in a good workout. Adults should make time for 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days per week according to the American Heart Association. So act presidential this President’s Day with a walk, a run, a swim or any other favorite activity to get your body moving.