We applaud athletes-turned-politicians -- but we should also take note of politicians who are athletic. They maintain their physical prowess, despite years in demanding high office.
Tim Cook is known for hitting the gym daily by 5 am, but the Apple CEO is also known for being reclusive compared to his legendary predecessor. Certain CEOs of Cook’s caliber may have the power to run a company out of the public eye.
Politicians don’t have this luxury. Neither do entrepreneurs.
As the founder and champion of a new brand, entrepreneurs are tasked with attending investor meetings, cultivating a company following, and motivating startup employees.
Elected officials are also the face of their administration; they are their brand. Face-time with the press and the public are mandatory.
Routine exercise is vital for professions where one must assume a public persona. Besides its ability to improve strength and reduce chances of disease, it improves mental health and mood, according to the National Institutes of Health. Regular physical activity also boosts the power to deliver the best first impression. It ensures the proper flow of the lymphatic system, which gives the skin – the largest and most visible organ of the human body – its healthy glow. So exercise is a winning recipe for charisma.
A lifetime of sport has helped roughly two-dozen former athletes to local, state or national office in the U.S. An easy example would be former professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming the 38th governor of California.
Then there are a handful of international athletes who hold political office. Vitali Klitschko entered Ukrainian politics in 2005 while maintaining his professional boxing career until his retirement from the ring in 2013. Manny Pacquiao, a world champion boxer in a record eight different weight classes, was elected to Filipino Congress in 2010 and 2013 while preparing for big bouts at the MGM Grand and Macau.
But we rarely take note of the politicians who juggle civil service and athletics. Even after years as a public servant, many find time to play the courts, run the tracks, or fight in the ring. These elected officials prove that when it comes to fitting in a workout, even the busiest professionals have no excuses.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is a veteran, and takes advantage of her local environment as an avid surfer. She has also participated in a lot of martial arts training.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick
Mayor of Ithaca, NY Svante Myrick is a sports fanatic, but not a couch potato. The 26-year old is one of the youngest mayors in American history and participated in the Tough Turtle, the city’s first 5k adventure race designed to encourage local fitness.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was co-captain of the squash team when she attended Dartmouth but hasn’t abandoned her love for racquet sports during her climb up the New York State political ladder. She recently told NPR she still plays tennis a couple times a week.
Lord Mayor of Liverpool Gary Millar
In the UK, Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Gary Millar hosts ‘npower Health’ events to promote programs like free Tai Chi demonstrations and senior ping pong sessions. He even joins in on Zumba parties. Over 14 million people worldwide count the dance and aerobics craze as their total body workout of choice.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia, completed a triathlon in 2013. He ran as a guide for Nathan Johnstone, a blind triathlete, during a marathon in Sydney in 2012, and a 14k race in 2013.
He is also an avid cyclist known for travelling to other countries with his bike in tow.
The past three Presidents of the United States
President Barack Obama is known for shooting hoops. Shortly after taking office, President Obama had the White House tennis court adapted so it could be used for both tennis and basketball.
And some of President Bill Clinton’s best photo ops in the 1990s were morning jogs with secret service.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is a regular swimmer and a sixth degree black belt in judo.
With the help of Steven Seagal, Putin is re-launching a Soviet-era fitness program that requires all schoolchildren to pass fitness tests, according to the National Post.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan
Tony Horton’s P90X Workout Program gained a mass following for its high-intensity interval training. The DVDs are known to deliver results that require less time and no equipment; just the type of workout that fits into House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s schedule.
Jodi Gillette, Senior Policy Adviser
Jodi Gillette, the Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council, played varsity basketball in college.
She recently wrote in a WNBA blog: “Sports continue to play an integral role in my life. Sports keep me balanced and healthy. I play basketball up to three times each week, and I lift weights. As a mother of three, the daily demands of parenting and work can seem daunting. But I am a stronger and happier person for my family and my job when I am active on the court.”
Gillette is a Lakota and an advocate of promoting health and fitness for Native Americans.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth was recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center in 2004 after her helicopter was hit by an RPG. After recovering, President Obama appointed her Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 2009.
In 2011, the Purple Heart Veteran and double amputee vowed to complete several marathons, starting with the 2011 Chicago Marathon which she completed in 2:09:26 hours, using a handcycle.In 2012 she ran for Congress, and was elected into the United States House of Representatives (Illinois, 8th District). All the while, she has taken up scuba diving, surfing, skydiving and flies as a civilian pilot.