How past presidents' exercise routines compare to Trump's

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty ImageTrump golfing in Scotland.
  • In his first year as president, President Donald Trump received a doctor’s recommendation to reduce his cholesterol, improve his nutrition, and start a workout routine.
  • Trump has said in the past he’s not a fan of exercise, and playing golf seems to be his primary, if only, workout.
  • Other presidents were generally more active than Trump. Whether they were into boxing or riding a mechanical horse, they had their own favourite ways of keeping fit.

When President Donald Trump had his first physical as a presidential candidate in December 2015, Dr. Harold Bornstein did not shy away from exaggeration.

“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” he said.

Two years later results from Trump’s second official medical exam, released this February, said the president was in “very good health overall,” but is clinically obese, the latest warning after he was told in January 2018 to lose 10 to 15 pounds.

Though Trump does practice healthy habits like refraining from smoking and drinking, he is not a fan of exercise.

“All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements – they’re a disaster,” Trump told The New York Times in 2015.

Trump isn’t the only president who didn’t like working out, though most were more active than he is.

Here’s how he stacks up against past occupants of the Oval Office.


Other than golfing, Trump is not too hot on exercise, despite his insistence that he does work out. “I get exercise,” he once told Reuters. “I mean, I walk, I this, I that.”

Donald J. Trump/FacebookTrump plays golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 11, 2017.

Sources: CNN, Reuters


When Trump plays golf, he drives a golf cart. During the campaign, Trump also said he viewed rallies as a form of exercise.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesTrump in a golf cart at his resort in Doral, Florida.

Sources: Axios, The New York Times


President Barack Obama enjoyed playing golf, too, which Trump frequently criticised him for.

Wikimedia CommonsObama and Vice President Joe Biden practicing putting on the White House lawn in 2009.

Source: Business Insider


Obama played a lot of basketball, and he did 45 minutes of weight training and cardio every morning.

White House via FlickrObama on the court.

Source: Mental Floss


President George W. Bush was a leg guy. In his youth, Bush ran the Houston Marathon in well under 4 hours and was an avid cyclist in his later years.

Source: Self


In 2004, Bush tumbled off his mountain bike on mile 16 of 17 at his ranch in Texas. He was wearing a helmet and mouth guard, so he just got a few scrapes and bruises. After the White House doctor fixed him up, Bush finished the course.

Source: Washington Post


President Bill Clinton was known for going on long jogs in the morning, often to McDonald’s. The White House had a “straggler van” follow behind him to pick up Secret Service agents who couldn’t keep up.

Sources: Self, Mental Floss


President George H.W. Bush enjoyed playing speed golf, according to the former director of the White House Athletic Center, adding more cardio to the otherwise leisurely game.

Source: Reuters


President Ronald Reagan, a former actor, was a fitness nut. He practiced an intensive workout program to keep his muscles in shape following his 1981 assassination attempt.

Source: Self


President Gerald Ford wasn’t too hot on working out, but he did enjoy lounging in the pool he had installed in the White House.

Source: Self


Though he played football in school, President John F. Kennedy’s back problems kept him from too-strenuous activities in office. He did like to go sailing at the family’s summer home in Cape Cod.

Source: JFK Library


President Dwight D. Eisenhower made golf a presidential sport. He took it up to improve his fitness after a heart attack in 1955.

Source: Self, Mental Floss


In addition to taking 1.5-mile daily walks, President Harry Truman had a bowling alley installed in the White House.

Sources: Self, Truman Library


President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a swimmer, using it to keep his upper body in shape after being paralysed from the waist down. He worked out in the water at least three times a week.

Source: Mental Floss


To stay fit, President Herbert Hoover’s physician invented “Hooverball,” a sport that involved throwing a medicine ball over a net. This gave Hoover a more diversified fitness routine than other pastimes might have.

Source: Self


President Calvin Coolidge was allergic to real horses, but he kept in shape by riding a mechanical horse.

National Archives

Source: Mental Floss


While the story that President William Howard Taft once got stuck in a bathtub is a myth, he did weigh over 300 pounds. His physical instructor outlined 15 exercises for him to do, including: “Lie flat on the back. Raise chin to chest and then back to floor pushing the arms along the side of the body as you raise the chin. 8 to 15 times.”

Sources: National Constitution Center,Washington Post


President Theodore Roosevelt was obsessed with staying in tip-top shape. Not only did he love working out, he also practiced tennis, judo, boxing, polo, and horseback riding.

Source: Mental Floss


President John Quincy Adams definitely took fitness seriously. He reportedly walked up to 6 miles every morning, and used to skinny-dip in the Potomac River, once treading water for almost an hour without touching the bottom.

George P.A. Healy

Source: Self


President Thomas Jefferson was also fond of horseback riding, and once wrote that it is important to spend afternoons on “exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading.”

Source: Self


Horseback-riding presidents stretch back to George Washington, who was a skilled rider. The former general preferred to ride on his own rather than travel in a carriage.

Source: CNN


With company like this, Trump might want to follow doctor’s orders and mix up his approach to fitness.

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