Fit for Office: The Health Habits of Obama’s Inner Circle

on May 16, 2013
Official White House photo, Pete Souza

Fit for Office: The Health Habits of Obama’s Inner Circle

We all know the First Lady is a healthy living guru, and the President himself enjoys shooting hoops at the White House’s basketball court. But the Obama Administration is full of fitness fanatics. Here’s how key cabinet members and others in the President’s inner circle work up a sweat.

Joe Biden, Vice President

When it comes to fitness, age is but a number for 70-year-old Vice President Joe Biden. The former football player enjoys running, biking and core-strengthening exercises. He also spends several days a week at the Senate gym lifting weights.

Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States

In addition to teaching English at a local community college, supporting various causes like breast cancer awareness and visiting military families, Second Lady Jill Biden spends much of her time running. She has completed several half-marathons, and in 1998, ran the Marine Corps Marathon in just over 4 hours, 30 minutes. “I think that running creates a sense of balance in my life,” she told Runner’s World in a 2010 interview. “I think that's why I continue to run because, as you know, once you get that, you kind of crave that time for yourself.”

Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior

Up by dawn each morning, Sally Jewell begins her busy day with an intense cardio workout at the gym. The 56-year old former CEO of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (aka REI) recently took the top post at the Interior Department, where she serves as an environmental ambassador for wildlife refuges, national parks and other public lands. An expert skier, Jewell enjoys kayaking, snowboarding, hiking and climbing. She has climbed Mt. Rainier seven times, and even scaled Vinson Massif, the highest mountain in Antarctica.

Penny S. Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce

The newest Cabinet member, 54-year-old Penny Pritzker has maintained an interest in running and cycling for more than 30 years. In 1984, she successfully completed her first Ironman Triathlon, despite spraining an ankle in the first mile. More recently, Pritzker participated in a mini-triathlon with her husband and two children. Pritzker, heiress to the Hyatt Hotel empire, uses some of her fortune to fund programs like ChicagoRun, which implements and funds running programs for youth in Chicago.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

On weekdays, 65-year old Kathleen Sebelius, who has been a runner for more than 30 years, runs a nearly 4-mile course around Capitol Hill. The former governor of Kansas served as a chairperson for numerous races in her home state like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K and the Topeka Governor’s Cup Race. “Running produces results—I know this from the way I feel,” Sebelius said in a 2011 interview with Runner’s World. “And now that I'm in the primary health agency in the world, I have the scientific backup to show how important it is to work out on a daily basis.”

Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation (not yet confirmed)

As a longtime cyclist himself, it’s no wonder that the newly nominated Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx strongly promotes biking as an alternative form of transportation. Along with helping to launch Bike Charlotte, a cycling promotional campaign, the 42-year-old mayor of Charlotte, N.C., holds an annual “Bike to Breakfast” event, where participants cycle into uptown Charlotte for a free breakfast. Foxx is often spotted cycling around Charlotte in order to stay in shape and will likely do the same in Washington. In his position, Foxx plans to continue the development of bike and pedestrian lanes in the nation’s top cities to create active, healthier environments.

Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education

Long before he served as superintendant of Chicago Public Schools or was named Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, 48, was a professional basketball player. During college, Duncan was co-captain of Harvard’s varsity basketball team, and then later played professionally for Melbourne’s Eastside Spectres of Australia’s National Basketball League. Duncan frequently plays basketball (often with President Obama) to stay in shape, and participated in the 2012 and 2013 NBA All-Star Celebrity Games. The Secretary of Education is a strong advocate Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, which demonstrates the importance of nutrition and exercise to school-age kids.

Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former Chief-of-Staff, current Mayor of Chicago

Barack Obama’s former chief-of-staff may have left the White House to take a position as Chicago mayor, but Emanuel, 53, still maintains a relationship with the President as a strategist. The politician stays in incredible shape with an intense 7-day-a-week workout regimen. Each morning when many of us are still hitting the snooze button, Emanuel runs 4 miles altogether (running to his gym and back), swims a mile, cycles nearly 50 miles (switching from an outdoor to a stationary bike), and does yoga.

Reggie Love, former Special Assistant and Personal Aide to the President

Love, who began his career sorting mail for then-Senator Obama and later became his personal assistant, was a member of the 2001 Duke University team that won the NCAA tournament. During the primaries of the 2008 presidential campaign, the pair reportedly played basketball together every day. The 32-year-old is now pursuing an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania.