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.
Rudy Giuliani | Former mayor, New York City | Age 63
Giuliani’s biggest health claim to fame so far has been surviving a bout with prostate cancer. After being diagnosed in 2000, he adopted a lycopene-rich diet and began running two to three miles a day on his treadmill. He received treatment for the disease and has been cancer-free since January 2001. “America’s mayor” is now a strong advocate for prostate specific antigen screenings, but his positions on other health topics still remain rather murky. He has announced the general outline of a national plan. The crux? Instead of expecting you to rely on your employer to provide health care, he wants to provide tax incentives to encourage you to buy your own insurance.
John McCain | U.S. senator, Arizona | Age 71
The decorated war veteran has undergone surgery to treat an enlarged prostate and two rounds of skin cancer. He has a bum knee and limited range of motion in his arms, caused by years of torture as a POW in Vietnam. He also smoked until he was 45 and doesn’t often hit the gym. But McCain consistently gets a clean bill of health on his frequent medical checkups, and he regularly hikes near his Arizona home. Last year, he and his son hiked across the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. In the Senate, he was another sponsor (along with Edwards and Kennedy) of the Patients’ Bill of Rights. He had yet to announce his health-care plan by the time we closed this issue, but in the past he has advocated giving more decision- making power to your doctor, rather than to your HMO.
Mitt Romney | Former governor, Massachusetts | Age 60
It’s no surprise Romney is a sports fan: He was president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics. These days, he runs a couple of miles every other day. He also likes biking, skiing, and waterskiing. In fact, each year he and his five sons hold a family minitriathlon. Romney tries to eat several small meals throughout the day; he’s partial to turkey sandwiches and his wife’s homemade granola with skim milk. As governor, Romney enacted vast health-care reform, including legislation requiring all the state’s citizens to purchase insurance. Romney had not yet unveiled his national health-care plan, but it most likely won’t require you to buy your own health insurance—he appears to favor leaving that decision in the hands of each state.
Fred Thompson | Former U.S. senator, Tennessee | Age 65
Although the seasoned actor and former senator hadn’t announced his candidacy by press time, it certainly looks likely. In April, the Law & Order star revealed that he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma (a relatively rare form of cancer) back in October 2004. Thompson was treated with medication, and he is now in remission. His diet and exercise routine haven’t been made public, but he is said to be in very good health. Since he’s not an official candidate, he hasn’t announced a health-care plan, but in the past he has opposed a universal health-care system like Canada’s, saying the treatment delays in that system are