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As we move into our 475th week of quarantine, and our resolve to become the next Jane Fonda diminishes with every slice of pizza, let’s looks back at the nation’s fittest politicians. 


(Library of Congress)

While Benjamin Franklin doesn’t necessarily conjure of the image of perfect health, this Founding Father was a lifelong advocate of walking and a strong champion of swimming. At the young age of 11 he devised swimming fins or “flippers” for his hands in order to obtain greater speeds in the water. In 1968 Franklin was posthumously inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport. 


(Harvard Library)

An avid wrestler and boxer, Theodore Roosevelt is famously one of America’s most notorious fitness fiends. The president and Rough Rider suffered from debilitating asthma as a child, which he began to outgrow as a boy after taking boxing lessons from John Long, an ex-prize fighter. While at Harvard, Roosevelt competed in lightweight tournaments throughout his college career and seemingly relished the in fact that he was, well, getting punched. The 19th century version of Bear Grylls, Roosevelt continued his impressive fitness regimen throughout his life — from boxing to wrestling, to horseback riding and rock climbing — and set a presidential precedent for health. 


(Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum)

The 38th President of the United States almost went pro after both the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions offered him contracts upon his graduation from the University of Michigan. Gerald R. Ford, a center and a linebacker, was an all-American and a star player during Michigan’s undefeated 1932 and 1933 seasons — during which the team won two national titles.


(George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum)

As the captain of the Yale baseball team and its starting first baseman in 1947 and 1948, George H.W. Bush led his team to appearances in the first two College World Series games that were ever played — Yale lost both years. In a 2007 interview with Sports Illustrated Bush described his baseball career as, “A lot of us on the team were [World War II] veterans and we had come back from the war, so maybe that made it a little less apprehensive. On the other hand, it didn’t deduct from our enthusiasm and our desire to win, which we did not do.”


(Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum)

The seemingly jack of all trades Ronald Reagan played football and was the captain of the swim team while at Eureka college from 1928-1932. An avid swimmer, Reagan was a lifeguard at his local Lowell Park, Illinois and is credited with saving the lives of 77 people. Lifeguarding for seven years proved to be a formative experience for the future president, with Reagan telling the International Swimming Hall of Fame, “There was the life that shaped my body and mind for years to come.”