Image is everything in American politics. With a relentless 24-hour news cycle and an Internet full of bloggers ready to jump on every gaffe or goofy photo op, we look to our leaders to represent not only our intellectual and civic ideals, but our physical ideals as well. Why do you think so many pro athletes get into politics? Glory earned on the playing field seems to naturally translate when it comes to the bruising arena in Washington and every state house. In this list of the Fittest Men in American Politics, you'll find many elected officials who crossed over from sports, along with gym rats, triathletes, pundits, a foreign dignitary, and, yes, three men vying for the most powerful position in the land. You may not agree with all of their politics, but their dedication to personal health and fitness is something we can all admire.
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As a teenager, lieutenant governor of California Gavin Newsom won a partial baseball scholarship to Santa Clara University, but his pitching arm gave out after just two seasons. Nevertheless, as a politician, he's been pitching major health and fitness initiatives for years. When Newsom was mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011, he signed laws that required city restaurants to put nutrition information on their menus, and proposed policy changes to bring healthy and sustainably produced meals from bountiful Northern California farms into the city. (Do restaurants in your city post nutrition facts on menus?) Even more impressive, he initiated the "Shape Up San Francisco" program, a five-year plan that aims to increase access to healthy food and make it easier for people to exercise.
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In New York, politics is a full-contact sport. It's no wonder, then, that the state's governor Andrew Cuomo loves boxing. (Related: Try this do-anywhere boxing routine.) In the house he shares with his girlfriend, Food Network host Sandra Lee, Cuomo practices throwing punches in a dedicated exercise room with weight bench. (Visit the Men's Health Workout Center for the right workout for you!) But the man also likes to share his passion for physical fitness with the people who elected him. As the father of three girls who participate in soccer and track, he officially made Sept. 26, 2012 Women's Health and Fitness Day in New York State.
Sure, Jim Himes, a congressman from Connecticut, was selected as one of Washington's "50 Most Beautiful People" this year by The Hill and even appeared in a few Ralph Lauren ads during college. But don't think any of that makes him soft. While at Harvard, he was also captain of the lightweight crew team. And, during the 2003 blackout in New York, Himes walked 31 miles from his Wall Street office to his home in Cos Cob, Connecticut--which took nine hours. He's still an avid rower and, in 2011, he won an exhibition race in a four-man scull against Connecticut state senator L. Scott Frantz. Now, you want to talk smack about those modeling shots? Go right ahead. Don't say we didn't warn you.
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As the current U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder has a lot on his plate—terrorism, immigration, drug cartels, just to name a few. But beating his boss in basketball? That may be lower on the priority list. "He plays a lot more frequently than I do. Having said that, I got a New York City game,” the 61-year-old Queens, New York native (who was co-captain of his high school b-ball team) declared at his confirmation hearing back in 2009. “If you give me a little time and space to get back in shape, I think I can hang with him. I don't think I will ever be in the position to defeat him, nor do I think it would be wise to do so." Hey, the guy’s good—not stupid.
(Consistent workouts mean better results. Learn How to Squeeze Exercise into Any Day.)
There are a lot of football metaphors in politics—ad blitzes, "punting" on issues, desperate "Hail Mary" attacks. But Heath Shuler, a congressman representing North Carolina, knows the real deal. He played quarterback for the University of Tennessee and was the runner up for the 1993 Heisman Trophy before turning pro with the Washington Redskins. He soon parlayed his NFL earnings into a successful real estate career, and was recruited to run for Congress by fellow fit politician Rahm Emmanuel, winning a seat in the House in 2006. He soon became what is known as a Blue Dog Democrat—a coalition of moderate-to-conservative Democrats—and vied for a leadership role in the party. Would you expect anything less from a former QB?
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Is this disgraced former U.S. Congressman controversial? Yes. Is he also completely ripped? Without a doubt. Of course, the country may not have paid much notice to Anthony Weiner's body had the married pol not sent semi-nude photos of himself to young women online, leading to his eventual resignation from Congress and countless late-night talk show jokes. But can you blame the guy for wanting to show off those pecs and guns? Rumor has it the noted liberal honed them with Paul Ryan's P90X crew, proving that bipartisanship isn't completely dead. Let's just hope that Weiner—who's gearing up for a New York City mayoral run and is still married—shows more restraint (or follows our Rules for Smarter Sexting) in the future.
Here's proof that competitive fire doesn't die out in athletes once they retire. In his 12 years in the NBA, first for the Cleveland Cavaliers and then the Phoenix Suns, Kevin Johnson was selected as an All-Star three times and took the Suns to the playoffs every year he was on the team (although they still couldn't beat the dominant Bulls for the championship). Not content with that run of success, Johnson took to the political realm in 2008, and won the Sacramento mayoral race in a tight runoff. He ran for re-election in 2012, winning again with more than 50 percent of the vote in a five-person race. How's that for running the floor?
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Let's be honest: Rahm Emanuel would have made an excellent personal trainer. As Barack Obama's former chief-of-staff, the Illinois native reportedly whipped fellow Democrats into shape with profanity and an intimidating wag of the finger he accidentally lopped off in a meat slicer years ago. Now Emanuel is mayor of Chicago, a notoriously rough-and-tumble political town. Good thing he takes care of himself with a grueling seven-day-a-week fitness regimen that includes two-mile runs each way to his gym, mile-long swims, 20-mile outdoor bike rides, 25-mile stationary bike rides, and yoga. He usually does all that before most people have their morning coffee.
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A four-time Super Bowl-winning wide receiver for the 1970's-era Pittsburgh Steelers, Lynn Swann served as chairman of the President's Council for Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition from 2002 to 2005. Then he ran for governor of Pennsylvania in 2006, successfully winning the Republican nomination, but losing out to Democratic candidate Ed Rendell in the general election. Since then, Swann hasn't stepped back into the political realm, but he's now a part-owner of Pittsburgh's arena football team—and the man still looks to be in top shape, even at the age of 62. (Try this No-Equipment Weekend Workoutto stay fit on the road, just like Swann.)
You don't want to mess with Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. After all, the man is a colonel in the Army National Guard, where he's served for 32 years. And, while he was in law school, Brown was fit enough to win a contest in Cosmopolitan magazine and appear in the pages in some unclothed but safe-for-work photos. He stays in cover model shape by regularly competing (and doing quite well, we should add) in triathlons and duathlons.
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Reggie Love began his political career working the mailroom of then-senator Barack Obama. Could he have been a ringer for the White House basketball team? Love played hoops for Duke University, and was a member of the 2001 team that won the NCAA tournament, before Obama reportedly took a shining to Love during pick-up games on the presidential campaign trail. Love soon became Obama's personal assistant, which meant he accompanied the president basically everywhere, toting everything from Obama's iPod to his cough drops. Love stepped down from the “body man” role last fall and is starting an MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania. And, yes, he can still drive to the rim with the best of them.
Related: The 3 Most Common Gym Mistakes
Mitt Romney may have taken on a younger running mate obsessed with training in Paul Ryan—but the 64-year old former Massachusetts governor is no slouch in the fitness department himself. (Nor is he a slouch when it comes to style. Follow this style tips, inspired by Romney, to Look Like a Leader.) An avid jogger, Romney has said he runs at least 3 miles a day and reportedly hits the elliptical machine for 30 to 40 minutes at hotel gyms while on the road. He loves peanut butter and honey sandwiches (getting protein and antioxidants without resorting to higher cholesterol lunch options), and counts skiing among his hobbies—after all, he was President and CEO of the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. All this may belie his rigid demeanor, but Romney insists he’s nothing if not flexible when it comes to health. He recently confessed that Ryan isn’t just his VP pick—but a personal trainer as well. “I might have him show me how to do [P90X] someday,” he said. “I’ve never tried that.”
Long before he became the mayor of Newark, Cory Booker was a Division I collegiate athlete, played tight end while an undergrad at Stanford University, and was selected to the All-Pac 10 Academic Team. As mayor, he started the innovative “Cory Booker Challenge,” which uses a Facebook app to reward points to Newark residents every time they exercise. Beyond that, Booker (a vegetarian) has become almost a folk hero in Democratic circles as an advocate for inner city youth and liberal ideals. The guy is also tough as nails—he's been known to accompany police during late night patrols in the most dangerous sections of Newark and was once a target of an assassination attempt by a local Bloods gang. (Download the latest Men's Health Workout App for fitness tips and exercise how-tos anywhere, anytime!)
Andy Roddick recently retired from tennis after a career that started when he was just old enough to swing a racket and ended with him earning 36 titles, including wins at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. Maybe he can parlay all that into a more active political career now. During the Bush years, the Texas native had served on the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. His Andy Roddick Foundation currently aims to promote fitness—through tennis, naturally—in children.
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When he's not skewering cable TV blowhards, Stephen Colbert has championed several athletic causes on his late-night show. When the US Speedskating team was facing financial difficulties ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Colbert stepped in and became an official team sponsor, using his nightly platform on Comedy Central to raise over $250,000. (The feat earned him a rare non-athlete, non-swimsuit model appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated). And NASA even used his name for their zero-gravity treadmill, which uses elastic straps to keep jogging astronauts in contact with the belt. The COLBERT—Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill—has been in space since 2009. Promoting fitness on Earth and beyond? Pretty impressive in our book.
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Adam Kinzinger is a rising star in Washington—TIME listed the 34 year-old U.S. Representative from Illinois in their "40 Under 40 list" and The Hill described him as the “Tom Cruise of Congress.” But the latter accolade wasn’t for any chair-jumping, Scientology antics. Kinzinger (who stays in shape through weightlifting and running) is a real-life Top Gun—an Air Force pilot who has done three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. (Learn how you, too, can Build Military Muscle.) But his most heroic physical act may have happened domestically. In 2006, he confronted a man who had cut a woman’s throat with a knife on a Milwaukee street, wrestled the attacker to the ground, and held him there until help arrived (the woman survived). “It was the worst and craziest night of my life,” Kinzinger later said.
In his time as an anchor for CNN, Anderson Cooper was on the scene for the big events of the past decade, including the flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Sri Lanka, and the 2006 civil war in Lebanon. It's no wonder, then, that Cooper likes to stay in shape through a rigorous five-day-a-week training regimen, which combines strength and endurance. (His trainer once said a typical gym workout for Cooper includes a 1K run, 50 pull-ups, 1K run, 50 box jumps, 1K run, 50 body slams, 1K run, 150 push-ups and another 1K run). He's confident enough in his athletic abilities that he even challenged Michael Phelps to a swimming race (that Cooper lost, of course) for a segment on 60 Minutes. Kudos to him for getting in the pool at all.
Related: The Med-Ball Revolution
Most of the pro athletes on this list are retired and stepped into the political realm after they hung up their cleats. But Drew Brees, the winning quarterback in Super Bowl XLIV, will continue to lead the New Orleans Saints offense through the 2012 season at the same time he serves as the co-chairman (along with Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes) of the high-profile President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. He was also recently named as an ambassador against hunger for the United Nations' World Food Program. As for his on-field accomplishments? Well, we think over 40,000 passing yards and more than 280 career TDs speak for themselves. (Train like a champion today with The Drew Brees Workout.)
It takes a strong mind and body to hold office in Washington, DC. Luckily, former mayor Adrian Fenty—a dedicated cyclist and triathlete—has both in abundance. The 41 year-old son of two avid runners who own a DC-area sporting goods store, Fenty has competed in multiple sports since high school, but only started training for triathlons in his mid-30s. It didn't take him long to become a pro, finishing 16th in a field of 2000 at the inaugural Washington DC triathlon in 2010. Off the track, he lapped the field as well, spending $7 million in his first 20 months in office for road and trail improvements and initiating the SmartBike DC program. After losing out to Democrat Vincent Gray in the 2011 mayoral election, Fenty turned to consulting work, but there are rumors he may run again—in a sense, he never stopped running in the first place. (Our Triathlon Training Guide is your first step toward getting fit like Fenty.)
There’s no doubt that Manny Pacquiao’s athletic accomplishments eclipse his political ones by a wide margin. After all, this is a guy many consider the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, a ten-time world champ with 54 wins and 38 KOs on his ledger and one of the greatest athletes the sport has ever seen. But he’s also a man of the people, born in an impoverished district of the Philippines before he stowed away on a ship bound for Manila to become a fighter. To this day, he remains passionate about helping those less fortunate and, after one unsuccessful political campaign in 2007, he returned to win a seat in the Filipino congress by a landslide in 2010. He has since lobbied the U.S. government to help support the garment industry in his native country. And, though he continues to focus on the ring first and foremost, Pacquiao’s civic responsibilities are never far from his mind. "I schedule my training and fights around congressional recesses,” he recently wrote in a Bloomberg Op-Ed. “When I fight, I feel the people of my country looking on.”
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You don't get to be a four-star general and without pushing your body to the absolute max. For the 58 year-old David Petraeus (current director of the CIA), that means getting up at dawn and going on a five-mile run, then following up with 20 pull-ups and 100 pushups. But that's just basic training. "When we bring a new guy in, I take him out for a run," Petraeus told Runner's World in 2007. "I'll go out hard, then ramp it up around five miles to try to waste him. I want to know how he'll react and respond to the challenge, what his strength of character is." This is coming from a guy who was a soccer and skiing star at West Point and once ran a marathon in 2:50:53. So you know those new CIA recruits have a long road ahead. Hope they can keep up—this old-timer has plenty of leg left in him.
No matter how you feel about his policies, there’s one thing you can’t deny about Barack Obama: the man is in great shape for someone who’s endured four grueling years of a recession, multiple wars, and an increasingly hostile environment in Washington. His secret is the same as always: Play basketball, eat right, and make it to the gym regularly. Back when Men’s Health interviewed the then-senator in the fall of 2008, he was trying to get in a 45 minute, 6-day a week workout (“I’ll lift one day and do cardio the next”). He also shared 6 Lessons That Shaped President Obama's Life. Now, with his presidential duties and a rigorous campaign schedule, it’s more difficult for him to find time to work out. But he still hits the b-ball court often, hooping it up with the likes of NBA stars past and present (Michael Jordan recently joined him for the “Obama Classic” fundraiser in NYC). Think the guy doesn’t have any game left? We’ll see about that.
Last year, Men's Health declared Aaron Schock America's Fittest Congressman (Check out The Secret Behind Schock's Rock-Hard Abs). And for good reason: The now 31-year-old U.S. Congressman from Illinois is the youngest member of the House of Representatives and has dedicated himself to a life advocating for our nation's health, regardless of party politics (the Republican praised Michelle Obama for her Let's Move campaign that addresses childhood obesity). He also launched the Fit for Summer, Fit for Life challenge with the help of Men's Health—even while taking some flak from pundits for appearing on our cover displaying his toned abs. Could they have just been jealous? We're looking at you, Wolf Blitzer.
Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan wants to cut Washington excess—literally. The P90X devotee once led a fitness class on Capitol Hill and boasts that he only has 6 to 8 percent body fat, thanks to his strict diet and exercise regimen. OK, sure, he may have fudged his marathon time a little (he said he ran one in under 3 hours, when it was closer to 4). But for the Wisconsin Congressman, being in shape isn’t just for political theater—it’s personal. After his father died from heart failure at the age of 55, Ryan dedicated himself to staying in shape to avoid the same fate and even worked as a personal trainer. Now that he’s in the national spotlight, the electorate has taken notice of his sleek physique. In the 12 hours after Mitt Romney announced him as his running mate, “shirtless” was one of the top 2 search terms associated with “Paul Ryan.” Learn The Truth About Paul Ryan's Workout to get ripped like America's fittest politician.