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President and First Lady Discuss Health and Fitness

Guest Lisa Israel

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Guest Lisa Israel

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama speak candidly about health

and fitness priorities for the country and their family in exclusive interviews

that will appear in the October 2009 issues of Men`s Health and Women`s Health,

respectively. The October issues hit newsstands on Tuesday, September 15.


President Obama, who appears on the cover of Men`s Health for a second time,

turned to the publicationto speak directly to the 12 million Men`s Health

readers at a critical juncture in the health care debate. The President, himself

a prototypical Men`s Health guy, explains how health care changes will affect

American men and their families. President Obama previously appeared on the

cover of the November 2008 issue of Men`s Health, which was on newsstands when

he was elected.


Inside the pages of Women`s Health, First Lady Michelle Obama opens up about

health, fitness and nutrition, and the significant roles each have played in the

first family`s life; she also discusses her unique role in advocating for health

care reform. Plus, Women`s Health got the exclusive scoop on Mrs. Obama`s

famously well-toned arms by getting the exercises she performs straight from her

long-time personal trainer, Cornell McClellan.


"It`s a pivotal time in the health care debate and Men`s Health is the perfect

forum for the President to speak to millions of smart health consumers," said

David Zinczenko, SVP/Editor-In-Chief of Men`s Health. "And politics aside, it`s

important to note that the Obama family, just like Men`s Health, believes in a

healthy lifestyle and taking responsibility for your own health."


"First Lady Michelle Obama leads by example-she is dedicated to her fitness and

to making smart food choices for herself and her family," said Michele

Promaulayko, Women's Health Editor- in-Chief. "Since our readers are committed

to the same healthy lifestyle, I know they`ll be motivated by Mrs. Obama`s

candid and inspiring words."


For any image requests or full quote sheet, please contact Emily O`Brien of

Coburn Communication, at 212.536.9820 or Emily.OBrien@coburnww.com.


Select quotes from President Barack Obama`s exclusive interview with Men`s



President Obama`s views on the health care system and how it needs to change…


"Even when I was a community organizer- I was paid $13,000 a year-I benefited

from the fact that the guy who hired me insisted that I get health care as part

of the package. And, you know, at the age of 24, 25, you think you`re immortal.

So I was thinking to myself, boy, I could use that money to pay the rent. But he

was very firm about everybody having health care, and I think that he did me a

great service during that time."


"Personal responsibility is going to have to be a component of it. But I think

it`s very important, before we start talking about personal responsibility, just

to be clear about the facts. We spend more on health care [each year] per person

than any other nation on earth. It also turns out, contrary to people`s

assumptions, that we are actually a little healthier than Europeans and some of

our other counterparts, primarily because our smoking rates are much lower. Now,

if the current obesity trends continue, that could reverse itself. But not only

do we smoke less, but we have a younger population."


"It`s important for us to recognize that even if Americans were a lot healthier

than they are now-had reduced our obesity rates below where they are now-we

still would have probably one of the most inefficient health care systems out

there. So how we change our delivery systems, how we make sure that people have

coverage so that they`re not going to the hospital for very expensive

emergency-room care-those are all issues that have to be dealt with as well."


"Look, obviously if you have the best care in America, you have the best care in

the world. We have great doctors here, we have great hospitals. The technology

that has been developed-oftentimes through free-market initiatives-can greatly

enhance people`s quality of life. And a lot of your readers are, if they`re like

me, weekend warriors on the basketball court. They`re looking at knee

replacements and hip replacements so they can stay active. Those things do cost



"I think one of the changes that has happened- even since I was a kid-when I

looked at my grandfather, at 55 he already looked old," he continues. These

days, at 55, people are in the prime of life. It`s a sign that if you have good

health care, if you have the capacity to exercise, if you`re able to take care

of yourself- and a lot of that ends up being tied to economics-then people can

be healthier than ever. But unfortunately, a lot of people don`t have those same

options. And that`s part of the push behind health care reform-how can we make

sure that all of us have the options of living healthier lives, which in turn

will save us all money in the long term?"


The importance of a bowl of apples in the Oval Office…


"It was our first step toward health reform."


Understanding the importance of prevention…


"My grandfather had prostate cancer, which means that I`m very well aware of

some of the specific concerns of men, but also the importance of prevention."


On the prospect of a "war on obesity"…


"Well, first of all, I don`t think it`s a war. As I said, my mother struggled

with weight-and I know that some of it was just genetic. But part of it was she

grew up in a generation where, unfortunately, women weren`t always encouraged to

be athletically active. She didn`t get into those early habits that my daughters

are already in, because they play soccer and are consistently active. So it`s an

example of how socialization can make a difference, particularly with our kids."



On the idea of "sin taxes" on soda, and other sugar-laden products…


"I actually think it`s an idea that we should be exploring. There`s no doubt

that our kids drink way too much soda. And every study that`s been done about

obesity shows that there is as high a correlation between increased soda

consumption and obesity as just about anything else. Obviously it`s not the only

factor, but it is a major factor."


"Obviously there is resistance on Capitol Hill to those kinds of sin taxes.

Legislators from certain states that produce sugar or corn syrup are sensitive

to anything that might reduce demand for those products. And look, people`s

attitude is that they don`t necessarily want Big Brother telling them what to

eat or drink, and I understand that. It is true, though, that if you wanted to

make a big impact on people`s health in this country, reducing things like soda

consumption would be helpful."


President Obama on how health care reform will affect the men of America…


"A lot of middle-aged men are losing their jobs and are going to have a tougher

time getting employed. Now, our first strategy is to make sure they find jobs

with good health care. But that`s why their ability to buy into some sort of

health care plan with subsidies is so important. We know that the costs for men

are actually a little cheaper than the costs for women when it comes to health

care during childbearing years. But once you get into your 50s and 60s, then men

tend to have more problems. So that cohort of men in their 50s up through the

time they qualify for Medicare, making sure that they`ve got someplace to go is

critical. Our health care reform plan would give them some sort of security."


"The other thing is, the prevention and wellness requirements that we want to

build into insurance can be very helpful for men, because in some cases men may

be less likely to get regular checkups and preventive screening. I had a friend

in Chicago who started a program with lower-income African American men, who

could go into barbershops to have their blood pressure checked and other basic

screenings, because they were so unlikely to visit a doctor`s office. And if we

can make sure that insurance companies for people who do have health coverage

are not providing a disincentive for people to go in and get those screenings, I

think that can end up preventing a lot of disease as well."


"My grandfather had prostate cancer, which means that I`m very well aware of

some of the specific concerns of men, but also the importance of prevention."


On the President`s 6-day workout schedule…


"My blood pressure is pretty low, and I tend to be a healthy eater. So I

probably could get away with cutting [my workouts] back a little bit. The main

reason I do it is just to clear my head and relieve me of stress."


Staying cool under stress…


"I ask [my team] to design my schedule in a way that focuses not just on what`s

coming at us, but on being active instead of reactive."


" carve out time to think, which is probably the most important time for

somebody who`s trying to shift an organization, or in this case, the country."


Select quotes from First Lady Michelle Obama`s exclusive interview with Women`s



Michelle Obama on her role in the health care debate…


"I intend to advocate for the issues I care most about: access to primary care,

[disease] prevention, wellness, nutrition, and combating childhood obesity.

These issues get directly to the heart of the health care debate. Chronic

diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States and

are an incredible drain on the system."


"The American people remember the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth

a pound of cure. Health insurance reform must make health care more than just

sick care. [it] must improve the health of our nation by investing in critical

prevention and wellness initiatives that help keep Americans healthy and out of

the hospital in the first place."


On how Michelle Obama`s childhood shaped her understanding of health…


"My father had multiple sclerosis, so I never took health for granted, because I

saw a father that at the prime of his life was struck with an illness that

completely changed his life."


"We couldn`t afford to go out to dinner, so [it] was a rare treat. We would have

a theater class on Saturdays, and [afterward] if Dad turned left we were going

to McDonald`s, and if he turned right we were going home, and we`d always go,

"Go left, Dad! Go left!" The few times he went left, it was like Christmas! And

we got pizza on report card day. That was a reward, pizza. Dessert was given

sparingly. We would get ice cream, three little pints, and we would eat out of

those for days. You`d get little scoops: Here, you get a little chocolate, you

get a little butter pecan, and that would be it. Those values-even though they

were the result of economic circumstances-were really good, and they created

some pretty healthy boundaries about food."


Michelle Obama on growing up with drive and discipline and instilling it in her



"I wanted to be smart. I wanted to be the person who had the right answer. I

lived in a community where being smart wasn`t necessarily the cool thing to be."



"My mother said, `That`s your choice. Don`t do it for me, do it for yourself.` I

heard that in my head every single day: `I`m doing this for me.` I ran into

people who doubted me, who didn`t think I could do certain things. I viewed that

as a challenge, and that never stopped me. That always made me push harder.

Barack and I want to instill that same work ethic and focus in our daughters so

they, too, can achieve anything they want to."


The importance of eating together…


"Dad`s office is just downstairs, and it`s rare that we don`t have dinner

together. No matter what`s going on, he sets aside that time. Dinner time is at

6:30 p.m., and he comes in, we sit down. I think this week was an odd week

because we ate dinner together the other night, and he said, `Wow, we haven`t

done this in a couple of days.` We say our thanks, our prayer-we usually take

turns. We sort of do a blessing, say a grace, and then, you know, we have the

tradition of just going around and talking about our days, the good and the bad



Michelle`s Obama`s White House rules…


"During the school year, no TV, no computers during the school week. Only on



The Obama girls` involvement in the White House garden…


"They`re probably as interested as the average kids would be interested in

anything that their parents are doing. It`s their backyard and it`s like . . .

eh . . . eh . . . you know? [Laughs] But they do love to be involved in

preparing the food, and when they have time they work with the chefs to prepare

a meal."


Finding the perfect balance between restraint and indulgence…


"I do love a good burger and fries. French fries are my favorite food in the

whole world. If I could, I`d eat them at every meal-but I can`t. My whole thing

is moderation. If I make good, healthy choices most of the time, then having

what I love every once in a while won`t hurt. I have to exercise and eat in a

balanced way. If I start ignoring both, I will put on weight. I am fortunate in

that I`m five-eleven, so it takes a while for the weight to be seen, but it`ll

come! It`s just distributed more. If I didn`t exercise and eat right I would be

heavier, and I have been."


Michelle Obama on her sense of fashion…


"For me fashion is fun, and it`s supposed to help you feel good about yourself.

I think that`s what all women should focus on: what makes them happy and feel

comfortable and beautiful. I wear what I love. Sometimes people like it,

sometimes they don`t. I`m fine with that."

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