More recently, commentators have gone so far as to offer Obama’s physique as a symbol for the fitness of his administration—and Trump’s as its antithesis. A recent tweet placed pictures of the men side by side: To the left is a trim, shirtless Obama, his pecs glistening with sweat; to the right is a red-faced Trump, his gut testing the waistband of his golf slacks. The caption: “Obamacare vs. Trumpcare.”
Trump’s physical neglect is worlds away from the vigorous life led by Vladimir Putin, whose efforts to reassert Russia’s role as a muscular world power have involved the promotion of a literal strongman image. Widely circulated photos taken over the years show the leader partaking in many “manly" activities: horseback riding shirtless in the wilderness, doing the butterfly in a Siberian river, driving a Formula One race car, arm wrestling youths at a summer camp, and, more recently, pumping iron in a Sochi gym. He’s made no secret of the fact that he holds a black belt in judo, releasing a feature-length instructional DVD entitled Let’s Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin—which is worth a watch just to see an intent Putin warm up with some hip circles.
One might expect Trump’s “America First” approach to be accompanied by a similarly militaristic exercise regimen. Instead, the man who promises to make America great again publicly revels in his sedentariness and poor eating habits. Throughout his campaign, Trump was outspoken about his appreciation for fast food, tweeting pictures of himself downing burgers, a taco bowl, and fried chicken—the latter on his private plane, with a knife and fork, no less. Aside from some strenuous-looking handshakes, the only physical activity Trump appears to regularly engage in is golf. He once described giving speeches on the campaign trail as exercise. And back in 2015 he defended his inertness to the Times, saying “All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements—they’re a disaster” (which might not be far from the truth; now 70, Trump is the oldest person to assume the presidency).
These habits likely aren’t helped by the fact that he ends his evenings with “plenty of television” and very little sleep. All this marks an alarming shift from his active youth; while the baseball captain at New York Military Academy, Trump was reportedly scouted by the Phillies. The septuagenarian deserves some credit, though, for his rejection of alcohol and cigarettes.
Trump appears to assert his presidential fitness less by action than association. Over the years, he’s made his connections to renowned athletes widely known, on TV news and via Twitter. Throughout his campaign, Trump bragged about friendships with, and endorsements from, dominant—and often controversial—sporting stars, like former NBA player Dennis Rodman, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and boxing heavyweight Mike Tyson.