Monday, January 19, 2009

HEALTH: How the commander in chief will change middle-aged men into physically fit specimens

Women of the world rejoice!

Not only is President Barack Obama bringing change to Washington, he is going to bring dramatic change to the man sleeping next to you each night. And that change will mean he gets less sleep and more exercise.

So all the difficult stuff you've had to go through to stay fit now will come down upon your significant other, claims The Telegraph newspaper in the UK.

Obama looks great for a middle-aged man. And all the pot bellies on buffett-ballooned men will have to come off or society will ask: why can't you be like the leader of the free world.

Here is how The Telegraph describes this new challenge to unmotivated mature men:

"The main reason I do it is to clear my head and relieve me of stress," Obama told Men's Health. "My blood pressure is pretty low and I tend to be a healthy eater. Most of my workouts have to come before my day starts. There's always a trade-off between sleep and working out. Usually I get in about 45 minutes, six days a week. I'll lift [weights] one day, do cardio the next. I wish I was getting a 90-minute workout."

Certainly Obama looks like he is preparing for the immense pressure that comes with his new position. Dr Michael Roizen, an American doctor who has assessed the medical records of presidents as far back as Theodore Roosevelt, believes one year in the White House equals two in the rest of the world when it comes to stress. He cites Reagan as an example. "When Reagan came into office [aged 69], he stood up absolutely straight," says Roizen. "When he left office, he was hunched over. The age signs on his face were there."

Obama has become renowned for his almost preternatural calm as displayed at every stage of the presidential campaign. And he does have one other advantage: his father's African background. Kenya, the home of the late Barack Obama Snr, produces some of the best endurance athletes in the world. It is a complex and debatable subject, but some sports scientists believe that up to 75 per cent of performance can be attributed to genetic background

Obama also eats healthily. He's a big fan of broccoli (unlike at least one of his predecessors, George Bush Snr). He snacks on raw nuts and protein bars after a workout and drinks organic berry tea. He does have some vices – caramel chocolates, the odd drink still and, famously, the occasional "bummed" cigarette.

So what lessons can middle-aged males here learn from Obama? The biggest challenge is to have an interest in fitness. While 49 per cent of men aged 19 to 24 take the recommended minimum exercise of 30 minutes, five days a week, the level drops to 34 per cent of men between 35 and 49, and 24 per cent between 50 and 64.

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