Whether you like them or not, we have to admit it takes a lot of stamina to survive a presidential campaign. The hours are grueling, the sleep is poor, and stress could threaten to be the dominant emotion. While that could drive anyone to exhaustion, we also expect our next president to be in tip-top shape, ready to handle any of the challenges that arise in the Oval Office.
It makes sense that we would value the health of our president – the stability of our country is more sound if the leader of the free world isn’t in serious danger of having a heart attack or other ailment. They also have to be healthy enough to endure the toll that a term (or two) in office can take. One study showed that presidents live just as long as their same-aged counterparts, if not longer, likely because they tend to be educated men with the wealth to receive the best care available – before, during, and after their time as president. But a recent study found that when presidents are compared to the runners up in the race, they live almost three years less than their losing counterparts, suggesting that when lifestyle factors are held relatively constant, a term in office can have a substantial negative effect on life expectancy.
In most cases, the presidential hopefuls have already been keeping their health in mind, and take action to keep themselves in shape. There’s no getting around the pizza they’ll eat on the campaign trail, but the candidates each have their own methods for staying healthy. Take a look at a few of them.
Clinton will be 69 by the time of the general election on November 8, tying Ronald Reagan for being the oldest person sworn into office (a few of her opponents are older, however). Regardless of that, Clinton’s longtime doctor Lisa Bardack released a letter last July stating, “She [Clinton] is in excellent physical condition and is fit to serve as President of the United States.”
In the letter, Bardack attested to the fact that Clinton sustained a concussion in 2012, at which point doctors discovered she had a blood clot. After taking blood thinners the clot disappeared, and Clinton passed tests in 2013 showing she was not suffering from any lagging effects of the concussion. The letter also said Clinton regularly swims, walks, does yoga, and weight trains to stay healthy, along with eating lean proteins and plenty of vegetables and fruits.
In addition to that, Clinton told NPR she eats at least one fresh hot pepper per day – a habit that started back in 1992 when her husband Bill was running his own campaign for president. “I read an article about the special immune-boosting characteristics of hot peppers, and I thought, well, that’s interesting because, you know, campaigning is pretty demanding,” Clinton told NPR.
Peppers contain capsaicin, a compound known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Studies have shown that people who regularly eat spicy foods can live longer. At the very least, Clinton attributes her energy to jalapeños. It’s “maybe … one of the reasons I’m so healthy, and I have so much stamina and endurance,” she said.
Chili head or not, Clinton pulls no punches when it comes to discussion about her health – including a FOX News report that referred to her as “ailing.” “You know, they say nearly anything about me,” she said at a rally earlier this year in Iowa. “There are several themes they keep beating the drums on. I’ll match my endurance against anybody.”
Sanders hasn’t spoken out as much about his personal health, despite championing universal health care for all citizens. According to ABC News, the Vermont senator had an outpatient hernia surgery November 30 in 2015, but was back at work the following day.
Though the dates were not corroborated by doctors, Sanders has had multiple hernias, Dr. Brian P. Monahan confirmed in January. Monahan, the attending physician for Congress, said in his statement that Sanders is in good health. “You are in overall very good health and active in your professional work, and recreational lifestyle without limitation,” the doctor wrote.
Sanders will be 75 by the time Election Day comes around and is the oldest of the candidates. Sanders doesn’t discuss his exercise routine, though his family members have attested to his regular diet of meats and vegetables, forgoing most processed foods. “He was Paleo before Paleo was a thing,” Carina Driscoll, the daughter of Sanders’s wife Jane from a previous marriage, told People.
For a candidate who has a flair for the dramatic and hyperbolic, it’s no surprise that he’s chosen a doctor with similar tendencies, at least in rhetoric. Dr. Harold N. Bornstein has been the personal physician to Trump for the past 39 years, and said if Trump were elected, he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
Bornstein added that Trump’s lab results were “astonishingly excellent” and that his physical strength and stamina are “extraordinary.” Though it might be overkill for a guy who’s going to be 70 by the time the election comes around, many of Trump’s healthy habits are to thank for his bill of clean health.
“I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life,” Trump told Rolling Stone a few years ago. “I’ve never had a drink, never had a joint, never had any drugs, never even had a cup of coffee.” The Examiner reports many of those choices come from losing his brother, Fred Trump Jr., who died from alcoholism. “I had this great brother who had everything going but he became an alcoholic,” Trump said. “In a certain way, he was one of my great teachers, if not my best. He got me not to smoke, not to drink.”
And despite the thousands of handshakes Trump will give over the course of the campaign, the businessman is actually on the germaphobic side. Rolling Stone added that he never goes anywhere without packets of Super Sani-Cloth Germicidal Disposable wipes in his jacket pocket. (Purell is too sticky, he claims.)
Trump rounds out his health by getting in a game of golf when he can, or a long walk. Trump knows some might not consider hitting the links exercise, but has seen the proof himself. “When I play a few rounds on the weekend, I’ll come in Monday morning and I’ll have lost 3 or 4 pounds. That’s very pleasurable exercise, and it keeps you away from the refrigerator because you’re out on the course,” Trump told Men’s Health.
There’s significantly less attention on the health of younger candidates, including Cruz, who will be 45 at the time of the election. Aside from knowing he despises avocados, we don’t know much about his diet.
We do know, however, that Cruz wears a FitBit and tracks his steps. During a day of campaigning in Iowa before the caucus, he racked up 12,697 steps before the day was even over, according to The New York Times. He’s also known to take his phone calls while walking, which can only help that FitBit tally. Of course, we all know the 10,000-step per day goal, even though experts say that benchmark isn’t always indicative of total health. Still, let’s see you get more than 10,000 steps sitting at your desk today.
Rubio will also be 45 at the time of the election. The Florida senator is known to use the gym on Capitol Hill when he’s there – he’s even started bill negotiations there – and tries to hit the gym most mornings on the campaign trail, too.
Aside from that, Rubio is perhaps best known for his water habit. He’s never without a glass or water bottle at his side, even during public speaking events. His need for constant hydration, though good from a health standpoint, has been distracting at times. (Take, for instance, his water break during his response to President Obama’s State of the Union in 2013.) Rubio claims he’s just thirsty, though some have said the habit is now manifested in a nervous tic. Either way, he’s likely to be the most hydrated candidate ever. He’s also figured out when to appropriately take sips from his water bottle, instead of diving off-camera for it.
Little is known about the quirks and habits of the Ohio governor, likely because he has yet to command center stage in the election. Aside from coming in second during the New Hampshire primary, Kasich has struggled to remain a contender in the race.
Kasich has admitted to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as much as he can while on the campaign trail, though he doesn’t get to lift weights as often as he’d like to, he told NPR’s Here & Now. “I try to stay as fit as I can. I mean, I work out today, I work out probably six of the last seven days,” Kasich told NPR on a phone call from his campaign bus. “I’m not lifting as many weights as I’d like to, so that’s going by the wayside. I’m going to get some weights on this bus.” As first lady of Ohio, Kasich’s wife Karen has also led programming to encourage children to be more active.