An exercise in hypocrisy? Trump lectures America on fitness


At the White Houses new Sports and Fitness Day, the presidents past comments on exercise being bad for you were notably absent

Wednesday was Sports and Fitness Day at the White House. This is not to be confused with the Barack Obama-era Fitness and Sports Day, which Donald Trump has cancelled.

Similarly, in February, the president issued an executive order which replaced the Obama-era Presidents Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition with a Presidents Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.

While one might be thinking that Trumps decision to swap the words sports and fitness was a petty attempt by the president to change something just because Obama had set it up, it could be that the semantic shift signaled Trumps decision to refocus the council on youth sports instead of general fitness and healthy eating. The executive order also led to Michelle Obamas Lets Move program being scrapped.

More than 250 children, parents and coaching staff convened on the South Lawn for the Sports and Fitness Day, joined by sporting celebrities like Olympic volleyball player Misty May-Treanor and retired MLB stars Mariano Rivera and Johnny Damon. Lou Ferrigno, star of the 1970s TV version of the Incredible Hulk, was also at the event perhaps Trump was impressed by his physique.

Trump started his short speech at the event with assurances that the new council would be a great, great success.

Ivanka Trump throws a football during the White House Sports and Fitness Day event. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

He told the audience of young athletes that he has loved sports all my life although he does not appear to play any, except for golf. The president also did not mention his views on exercise, which are rather unorthodox. In their book Trump Revealed, the Washington Posts Mike Kranish and Marc Fisher write that Trump believes the human body is like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.

Trump expounded on his ideas that exercise is bad for you, in a 2015 interview with the New York Times magazine . All my friends who work out all the time, theyre going for knee replacements, hip replacements theyre a disaster, he said.

Unlike former presidents Obama and George W Bush, who worked out daily at the White House, reports say that Trump has not found the time to include a fitness regime into his schedule.

He does believe, however, that addressing large crowds of people is a form of exercise. In conversation with Dr Oz, Trump once said: When Im up there speaking in front of 15,000, 25,000 people up there, using a lot of motion, I guess, in its own way its a really healthy act. A lot of times these rooms are really hot, like saunas. I guess thats a form of exercise.

Trumps views that exercise is life-depleting arent widely supported by science. However, a 2015 paper, published in the American Heart Associations journal, Circulation, did find that strenuous exercise undertaken more than two to three times per week was associated with an increased vascular risk amongst middle-aged women. As Trump is not a middle-aged woman it is not clear how relevant this is to him, however.

Despite his views on exercise, Trump apparently started a new health and fitness regime earlier this year, after his first presidential physical found him to be borderline obese. The president is 239 pounds and 6ft 3in tall, which puts him just one pound under what official guidelines classify as obese although some have questioned whether the presidents height was exaggerated to stop him from falling into the category. Ronny Jackson, who has since left his post as the presidents personal physician amid concerns about his professionalism, told reporters that Trump had acknowledged that he might benefit from losing some weight and exercising more.

Trump playing a stroke as he officially opens his new multimillion-pound Trump International Golf Links course in Scotland in 2012. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Since then, sources have told CNN that Trump is being served slightly healthier food but they havent identified a discernible exercise routine beyond the weekend rounds of golf the president enjoys with the help of a cart.

Nobody is entirely clear what Trumps new health regimen consists of and the White House seems reluctant to elucidate the matter. Ivanka Trump abruptly left a press call on Tuesday designed to provide background on Sports and Fitness Day after a reporter asked her questions about her fathers new health regimen. Perhaps her phone, like the human body went when one exercises too hard, ran out of battery.

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