Politicians can be criticized for many things. Being fit and healthy is not usually one of them. The general view of the lifestyle of the average politician would be one of too many meals out perhaps accompanied by a bit too much alcohol. Regular exercise is not often associated with politicians. Now, this is of course a generalization. There will be those who are watchful of what they eat and some maintain a fitness regime.
Australian Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott is a rare breed amongst politicians in that he is a fitness fanatic. He competes in iron man events and triathlons. He is in extremely good physical shape for his age and is getting known for photos in his Speedos. This is a rare look for any politician.
Now I am fairly fit and a couple of years younger than Mr. Abbott and have no desire to emulate his efforts. It is not necessary to do as much exercise as he does to be in good health.
It is interesting to see some of the reaction to this. Obviously political opponents want to score points so it can be argued that making jokes about media pictures of Mr. Abbott in his “budgie smugglers” as his bathers are colloquially known is fair game. Equally is the jibe that the public may be tiring of seeing photos of him in bathers on the beach.
There has been another criticism which is a bit stranger particularly sitting against the backdrop of ongoing discussion over health care reform. He has been criticized for spending too much time keeping fit rather than being at work. Now I do not know exactly how many hours per week he spends on his exercise regime or doing his day job. The Federal Treasurer was quoted as saying” I do not know where he finds the time …”.
Jokes aside, there are serious issues that emerge from this. Firstly no matter what your day job is, looking after your health is vital and keeping fit is a key part of this. We all have 24 hours in the day. Some of us prioritize exercise and others do not. Some of us are efficient in our tasks, others less so. Some people, not just politicians, wear the hours they work as some sort of honor badge- it is no such thing.
Excessive hours at work are not good for health as it makes your life unbalanced. In addition to this, the longer one works without break the less productive one becomes. On top of this exercise helps mental clarity and helps you sleep better. Hence a fit person will often get more done in less time that someone who is not fit. Of course exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and reduces your risks of disease such as heart disease and stroke to name but two.
So with all the arguments over “health “ reform and ways to pay for more disease services, which are required because many people do not exercise, it is in some ways refreshing to have a political leader who is leading by example when it comes to health. A politician who is showing that health is not about hospital beds but about looking after yourself.
Being fit is not grounds to be elected.Like all politicians he needs to be judged ultimately on policies and how well he does his day job. Criticisms of his exercise regime particularly in an environment where governments are concerned about the spiraling costs of the consequences of not exercising are ridiculous.