Healthy (and not-so-healthy) habits of U.S. presidents
If you’re running the country, the mind and body should stay in shape. When we look back in history, that wasn’t always the case. In honor of Presidents Day, we found some interesting tidbits of information regarding the healthy, and not so healthy, habits of our former (and current) presidents.
John Adams was on a then-trendy treatment: a milk diet. Adams was told to avoid meats, spices and spirits in favor of bread, milk, vegetables and water. His health improved, but he developed severe heartburn, which he treated with large portions of tea.
John Quincy Adams loved to exercise and was a great swimmer. Often, he would rise early in the morning, walk from the White House to the Potomac River, strip down to his birthday suit and go for a swim.
For exercise when he was president, James Buchanan walked every day for an hour on Pennsylvania Avenue, “affably greeting his acquaintances.”
George Bush has participated in sports and fitness activities most of his life. He began playing tennis at age 5 and was on the baseball team in college. He began regular jogging at age 51, while head of the CIA. You’re never too old to try something new!
George W. Bush ran an average of three miles, four times a week, and routinely cross-trained with swimming, free weights and an elliptical trainer. He reportedly ran a mile in seven to eight minutes.
After leaving office, Bill Clinton went on the South Beach diet, lost weight but then needed a bypass operation. Doh!
Calvin Coolidge slept 11 hours a day. He went to bed at 10 p.m., got up between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and always took an afternoon nap lasting two to four hours. Some say it was caused by depression.
Gerald Ford was a former all-star college football player who turned down offers to play professionally. As president, he skied, swam and played golf and tennis, and did them all well.
Herbert Hoover hated to exercise. The only recreation during his presidency was a morning hybrid game of tennis and volleyball using a medicine ball and an 8-foot-high net, six days a week. Surprisingly, he missed only one session during his term in office. Good for him for following doctor’s orders!
In a letter, Thomas Jefferson wrote about the importance of exercise — walking and shooting most of all — but said “games played with the ball and others of that nature are too violent for the body.” Jefferson always found time to exercise, even while studying. “Health must not be sacrificed to learning,” he wrote.
Barack Obama’s exercise routine includes working out for 45 minutes, six days a week, including cardiac-strengthening routines and weight-lifting. He makes sure he plays a game of basketball before every election.
Ronald Reagan worked out “about 5 p.m. or so each afternoon, or when the work was done,” for an hour or more in a White House bedroom that had been converted into a gym with exercise equipment.
Franklin Roosevelt suffered from anorexia and weight loss. In June 1944, he was 188 pounds. By November that same year, he dropped to 165. His doctor gave him eggnog supplements, but it didn’t help. He lost more weight. The cause of weight loss is thought to be from heart disease and malignancy.
William Taft struggled with his weight all his adult life. He was 243 pounds when he graduated college. By age 48, he weighed 320 pounds. His doctor helped him lose 70 pounds over a year and a half, but two years later, he was back up to 300 pounds. When he left the White House he was up to 340 pounds. The summer before he passed away, he was 244 pounds. He suffered from sleep apnea, most likely caused by his obesity.
For more presidential factoids, check out the beverages some of our presidents indulged in.