presidents workplace wellness

On Presidents Day, Fitness Tips from Executive Branch

On a day when many people have the day off — and we celebrate U.S. Presidents — we thought we’d look back through history and see if our commanders-in-chief had any fitness tips that would work in a well-run workplace wellness program.

Turns out, many of our chief executives may have been as passionate about fitness as they were about policy. Throughout the years they have been active in cardio, swimming, basketball, and more.

Mental Floss helps by outlining “The Healthy Habits of 15 U.S. Presidents.”

Our Fitness Presidents

Some highlights:

  • “John Quincy Adams Loved Morning Cardio: Nobody understood the virtues of morning exercise better than John Quincy Adams. As America’s foreign minister to Russia, Adams would wake up at five, have a cold bath, and read a few chapters from his German-language Bible. Then came a 6 mile walk, followed by breakfast.” For workplace wellness: Encourage employees to walk or bike to work when possible is a great fitness activity.
  • “James Buchanan Seldom Rode When He Could Walk: Lincoln’s predecessor didn’t often travel via carriage. ‘I doubt whether Mr. Buchanan used his coach and horses more than a dozen times a year, except during the summer,’ wrote James Buchanan Henry, the President’s nephew and secretary. ‘He greatly preferred the exercise of walking, with its exchange of kindly personal greetings with friends.’” For workplace wellness: Encourage employees to take the stairs instead of an elevator — or a have a walking meeting rather an a seated one.
  • “William Howard Taft Cut Carbs, Dropped 70 Pounds: At his biggest, Taft weighed in at a whopping 340 pounds. But within nine months of leaving Pennsylvania Avenue, he lost some major league poundage—and kept it all off until the day he died. How’d Taft do it? By cleaning up his diet. The Republican completely axed bread, potatoes, salmon, bluefish, wine, liquor, tobacco, and fatty meats like pork. ‘I can truthfully say that I never felt any younger in all my life,’ he told The New York Times. ‘Too much flesh is bad for every man.’” Harry S. Truman practiced “portion control.” For workplace wellness: Encourage employees to eat right — and make sure the cafeteria is filled with healthy choices (Note: We recently outlined how to eat for a healthy heart).
  • “Ronald Reagan Trained All Muscles Equally. In 1983, Parade treated its subscribers to an especially eye-opening read: ‘How to Stay Fit: The President’s Personal Exercise Program’ was a tell-all article penned by the Gipper himself… Every evening, Reagan would hit the gymnasium.” For workplace wellness: Encourage employees to exercise regularly — and consider incentives, particularly if your workplace has a fitness center co-located.

The bottom line: Presidents Day may offer a day off from work for some, but it also offers the opportunity to align a well-run workplace wellness program with some of our Presidents’ best traits.