For skeptics the world over, President Donald Trump’s “fitness for office” remains an open question.
So should his physical fitness.
Granted, Trump was an accomplished schoolboy athlete – but that was more than 50 years ago.
And while Trump’s prowess on the golf course is well-documented, those rounds he’s played appear to be the only exercise that the 70-year-old has ever engaged in as an adult.
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He’s never been photographed running, cycling, swimming or playing tennis (save for hitting a couple of strokes while wearing a suit in a 2015 promotional appearance with Serena Williams).
And considering he almost certainly rides a cart during his time on the links, the fitness benefits of simply swinging a golf club are dubious at best.
“The biggest factor that determines whether golf is considered a good exercise or not is whether you’re walking or not,” said New York sports medicine physician and author Dr. Jordan D. Metzl to CNN in December.
Don’t misunderstand: Golf is a wonderful pastime that folks can participate in for a lifetime, and last year the British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that said, “The best available evidence suggests that playing golf may contribute to reduced mortality and increased life expectancy.”
So there’s that.
But, as both Metzl explained to CNN and the British study concluded, there’s no evidence that playing golf increases strength or builds muscle mass in folks of any age.
So, Trump’s apparent lack of vigorous exercise combined with a diet that he’s previously admitted has included copious fast food and red meat would appear to put him at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Then there was last September’s visit to the set of “The Dr. Oz Show,” in which Dr. Oz deemed Trump “overweight” based on the information he was provided by Trump’s personal physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein.
Until Trump undergoes a comprehensive physical exam performed by official White House doctors, there’s no way the public will be truly informed about the state of the 45th president’s health.
As Trump has no doubt already learned in just these few days, being the leader of the free world is not only stressful, but there’s no being “off the clock.”
That’s part of why I believe the images of past presidents being physically active was so vital. These guys needed a way to blow off steam.
Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were distance runners.
Ronald Reagan rode horses.
George H.W. Bush was an avid tennis player, and George W. Bush loved his mountain biking.
And, of course, Barack Obama’s regular hoops games were the stuff of D.C. legend.
Also, don’t discount the increased political capital: The sight of these leaders out of their suits and ties and in casual/athletic wear helped humanize them.
We can’t relate to what it’s like occupying the Oval Office or flying on Air Force One – but we can relate to sweating through a 4-mile run or flubbing a backhand.
And these optics do more than just strengthen the connection between presidents and their constituencies.
They also serve as powerful symbols, ones that promote the benefits of leading a fit and active lifestyle.
A healthy body and a healthy mind go hand in hand – especially the older we get.