Interview: Washington Governor Jay Inslee Talks Health And Fitness

Governor Jay Inslee

Nothing makes us prouder than to recognize a successful politician who practices and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Why? As the first organization in the US to emphasize the importance of fit and healthy politicians on a macro and micro level, we consider them to be one of the strongest indicators of the future prosperity of our country.

Samir Becic had this to say: “These fit politicians will have more drive, energy and stamina to cope with the demanding responsibilities of their duties. They serve as role-models for future generations and help in reducing obesity in the United States.”

That is why we are especially proud to present our interview with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. Governor Inslee is one of our country’s fittest political leaders. He is an avid athlete, outdoorsmen, and vocal advocate of living a healthy lifestyle. Through programs like the Healthiest Next Generation Initiative, Governor Inslee has proven to be a strong ally in the fight against childhood obesity. That’s why he has made our list of Top 10 Fittest Governors and Top 100 Fittest U.S. Politicians. Samir said, “Every politician in the United States who is physically fit and promotes a healthy lifestyle in order to improve the future of our children has my vote, regardless of party.”

HFR: What are your favorite physical exercises?

Gov. Jay Inslee: My favorite by far is chasing around my 3 young grandchildren. After that I enjoy riding my bicycle and seeing some of the amazing sights Washington state has to offer, and I especially love hiking Mount Rainer. I have always been a basketball player, but I don’t play as much as I used to. I still like to practice my jump shot though.

HFR: What is your typical meal of choice?

Gov. Jay Inslee: I frequently eat a grilled cheese sandwich with a delicious Washington state apple whenever I can. Also, anything from (my wife) Trudi’s garden is amazing, she has some wonderful vegetables growing.

HFR: Besides exercising and focusing on nutrition, what do you do to stay healthy in terms of mental health & spirituality?

Gov. Jay Inslee: Any chance I can walk instead of driving or using an elevator, I take it. I enjoy photographing flowers, mountains, lakes and all the other wonders Washington has to offer.  I also draw pictures of natural landscapes and create books with my drawings for my grandchildren.

HFR: What can you do to make a difference in the health of your community?

Gov. Jay Inslee: First, I try to be a role model for my family and my community by being active and mindful of what I eat.  Second, in my role as governor I have put forward a series of bipartisan policies and met with stakeholder groups on how we can move Washington to be the healthiest state in the nation and reduce obesity, particularly in children. Third, I believe my work is never done. We are constantly learning more about the human body and we need to make sure our behaviors as individuals and policies reflect that.

HFR: What are 5 health and fitness tips that you can give to Americans?

Gov. Jay Inslee:

  • Step away from any screen and move
  • Drink plenty of water and move some more
  • Eat as much local produce as possible and rest
  • Do something fun and move
  • Find a friend to do something and move.

HFR: How do you promote a healthy lifestyle to your family?

Gov. Jay Inslee: I love to do any physical activity with my family. Every bike ride I go on, I invite Trudi and I am looking forward to teaching my grandchildren how to ride soon. I also will tag along with my adult sons when they go on outdoor adventures like hiking, sailing and skiing.

HFR: Have you been a part of any political initiatives that benefit a healthy lifestyle?

Gov. Jay Inslee: I was a proud supporter of the Affordable Care Act and our state has been model for the national implementation. We started the Washington Healthplanfinder, and now nearly 700,000 Washingtonians are now enrolled in new or more affordable health plans. This is saving lives and making a difference in quality of life.

Jay Inslee (right) playing basketball as a teenager. Photo: The Seattle Times
Jay Inslee (right) playing basketball as a teenager. Photo: The Seattle Times

HFR: How can we help the next generation of youth to live healthier?

Gov. Jay Inslee: Funny you should ask about the next generation because that’s what we refer to our initiative called the Healthiest Next Generation – it’s chiefly a healthy weight initiative focused on better nutrition options and physical activity for kids, but also includes substance abuse prevention. Through policy and budget initiatives focused on these goals, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot in Washington state; here are a number of things we’ve done:

  • We’ve integrated all our state agency work – from health, K-12 and early learning – to all work together on these common goals – this requires hiring good people in state government to make these changes. We have a public health expert, a child nutritionist and a physical educator.
  • We’ve provided funding for Safe Routes to School Program as part of our historic transportation package. This initiative helps to get more children biking and walking to school, reduces traffic congestion and improves air quality.
  • We’ve updated our health and fitness education curriculum by encouraging more PE and promoting active daily recess.
  • We’ve secured grants for schools to improve the health and safety needs of children — such as installing playground equipment or water bottle filling stations, making upgrades to school nutrition equipment, and creating school gardens.
  • We’ve implemented early learning programs. These programs have increased nutrition training, physical activity and screen time in our ‘Early Achievers’ preschool professional criteria. We’ve funded regional Early Learning collaborative for education and outreach on ways early learning professionals can use best practices for nutrition and physical activity. We also updated the rules and regulations for licensed Child Care Centers to address latest standards on nutrition, physical activity and screen time.
  • We’ve secured a major USDA grant to engage over 60 multi-sector public and private partners to promote the purchase of fruits and vegetables by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients through supermarkets, farmers markets and health systems.
  • We’ve made a historic investment in state parks to help ensure families and children can enjoy the outdoors.
  • We’ve ensured grant funding for non-profits and local governments to support indoor and outdoor youth athletic facility projects.
  • We’ve ensured funding for Complete Streets, a program to add sidewalks, better cross walks, trails, bike lanes and other connectors in communities. We have provided outdoor learning opportunities for young people.

HFR: How can we curtail the epidemic of obesity in America?

Gov. Jay Inslee: We’re focused on making this a reality. I mentioned in my first State of the State address that, ‘Research shows that, for the first time in our history, this generation is not expected to live as long as the previous generation. This should be unacceptable to us. We need to make the next generation the healthiest generation in the history of our state.’ My administration is focused on child health and opportunity. With a continued focus on this like the list of activities I’ve mentioned, we’re going to keep at it. I call my council of advisors together once a year, we call it the Council for the Healthiest Next Generation (#HealthiestNextGen). Trudi and I will host this year’s event at our residence in Olympia.

HFR: How can preventative medicine help reduce healthcare costs in America?

Gov. Jay Inslee: I believe both in the mental and physical requiring attention all throughout the year, not just when something bad happens. This is why I get a flu shot every year. I continue to get yearly checkups with my doctor and dentist.

HFR: American politicians are great ambassadors for making a healthier America. What are your plans for the future to make this happen?

Gov. Jay Inslee: We have to lead by example for our children. I loved having fifth graders out to the Executive Residence for a game of basketball. I loved the walking school bus, which is having a group walk or bike to school together – all these are great examples of getting kids out and active.

We need to provide families options and resources, especially in their communities like parks and places to play. We need to fund our schools and to fund PE by offering our kids plenty of recess time to be active. Every child deserves to grow up healthy and have a promising future. And we know things like physical activity and healthy eating are critical to the physical, emotional and cognitive development of young children. Simply put, kids need to eat well and play hard.

As part of our Healthiest Next Generation initiative, we had a national child development expert, Dr. Diane Craft, come to Washington. She did some trainings for early learning professionals. What Dr. Craft’s research shows is both simple and phenomenal: Physical activity is critical for developing core movement skills and stimulates brain development. Babies need to be able to move and stretch. Toddlers need to run around. Kids need to jump and kick and throw a ball.

I hope you’ll join me in making sure the children in our care exercise their bodies as well as their minds. It can be as simple as giving them unstructured outdoor play time every day, rain or shine. We’ve made some historic investments in early learning. We’re giving Washington’s children a brighter future with these investments. Let’s give them a healthier future as well.

HFR: Is there any specific story you would like to share that pertains to health and fitness?

Gov. Jay Inslee: Last week my son, summited Mount Rainer in less than 24 hours, which is an amazing feat. I am really proud of him and it shows was hard work, determination along with proper training can do. I think it’s important for people to remember to find enjoyment in being active and being healthy.

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