Is Anyone Fit To Lead?

How the presidential candidates are staying in shape as they race toward the White House (Nov '07)

Running for the highest office in the land means less time for jogging, biking, swimming, or weight training. And campaign stops aren’t exactly known for healthy fare—think stale coffee, state fairs full of fried everything, and pastry-packed fund-raising dinners. But even presidential candidates know they have to look good. So here’s a roundup of what the top contenders do to keep themselves fit, and what they’ve done (or plan to
do) to help you get there as well.

Barack Obama | U.S. senator, Illinois | Age 46
Obama has the build of a basketball player, which he was. His high school team even won the Hawaii state championship during his senior year. (Check out his moves on YouTube.) These days, he still plays occasionally and hits the gym regularly. Despite a reported cigarette habit he’s trying to kick, he’s introduced several health-related bills. His National Medic Act aims to improve patient safety and alert patients sooner about medical mistakes. He’s also addressed environmental health concerns and introduced the Healthy Places Act, which supports improvements on parks, trails, and public transportation. His proposed health-care plan is similar to Clinton’s and emphasizes coverage for preventive services.

Hillary Clinton | U.S. senator, New York | Age 60
She used to play softball, basketball, and tennis, even winning a trophy in a mixed doubles tournament. These days, the former first lady is a fan of speed-walking. As a U.S. senator, she has focused a large amount of her time in office on health care for soldiers. She passed legislation that tracked their health status to make sure conditions like Gulf War Syndrome didn’t fall through the cracks. She also sponsored legislation that expanded health benefits to members of the National Guard and Reserves. Clinton led a doomed universal health-care effort when Bill was president; now she says the pressure for reform has increased. Among other measures, her plan includes the requirement that insurers cover preventive medicine, such as screening for diseases.

Bill Richardson | Governor, New Mexico | Age 60
The formerly portly New Mexico native lost a significant amount of weight recently as he prepared for his presidential bid. His aides won’t say how much, but most pundits estimate he dropped at least 30 pounds by working with a nutritionist and trainer who put him on a workout that includes boxing, running, and lifting weights. As governor, Richardson has enacted a number of health-care reforms to face his state’s daunting number of uninsured—the second-highest number in the country. Richardson’s health-care proposal would include a “hero’s health card” that would allow veterans to receive medical care anywhere they want, rather than having to go to a V.A. hospital.

John Edwards | Former U.S. senator, North Carolina | Age 54
Known to hit the treadmill on the campaign trail, Edwards also took part in Lance Armstrong’s bicycle race across Iowa last July. The race supports cancer research, a cause near and dear to Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, who has breast cancer. Currently, he blocks out an hour of his day to run three to five miles. In 2001, Edwards (along with John McCain and Ted Kennedy) co-sponsored a bipartisan bill called the Patients’ Bill of Rights, which would have guaranteed access to necessary specialists. The bill passed the Senate but never made it out of Congress. Now, Edwards is touting a health-care plan that would lower medical costs, help the uninsured secure access to medical care, and create a comprehensive guide for rating hospitals’ effectiveness.

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