The 10 governors on this list have demonstrated what a proactive governor can do to make their state a healthy one. A governor can influence the food our children eat for lunch and the public spaces are available for physical activity. A governor can also build alliances of educators, parents, business leaders and local communities to get everyone in his or her state on board for big changes in health and fitness.
Samir said: “Governors are mini-presidents and, after the President of the United States, the most influential politicians in the United States to help in the fight against obesity and type 2 diabetes. They should also lead by example and make physical fitness a crucial part of their own lives, and publicize their physical activity to inspire people to follow suit and join in healthy living.” –Samir Becic
We first researched all the available data on the current governors. Then, we did more extensive research to narrow it down to 25 and then finally 10. We used a combination of interviews, internet, library, industry literature, and Samir Becic’s knowledge of over 33 years in athletics coupled with his recognition as “4x Number 1 Fitness Trainer in the World.”
Earl Ray Tomblin- West Virginia
Earl Ray Tomblin has partnered with fitness legend Jake Steinfeld (“Body by Jake”) on The National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils in order to build a nation of the fittest, healthiest kids in the world. His own site states that physical activity and exercise are shown to help prevent and treat more than 40 chronic diseases, enhance individual health and quality of life and reduce health care costs. In schools, studies show that physical activity improves academic achievement, increases confidence and self-esteem, reduces discipline problems, cuts absenteeism and fosters better interpersonal relationships. Tomblin himself has said “I’ve always said that academics and fitness go hand in and hand and believe that if you provide the schools with the tools, students will excel beyond their wildest dreams. Not only will these students be healthier, but they’ll also have increased confidence, improved self-esteem and will achieve greater academic success.”
Jay Inslee- Washington
Jay Inslee is a known avid basketball player and has even played against Barack Obama at the White House. To stay active, he says he also enjoys biking, skiing and hiking. Inslee also participates in the annual congressional baseball game and is a charter member of the Hoopaholics camp, a basketball charity that raises money for abused and neglected children. Athletics for Inslee, it seems, serve as a cure for a slow litigation process in Washington D.C. Inslee recognizes that we need to look more broadly at the overall structure of wellness and prevention – healthy habits, healthy diet and a commitment to fitness. He states that these are the true elements of building a healthier state workforce- so he signed a bill that requires healthful food and beverages in vending machines, cafeterias and on-site retail shops, at meetings and events, and in institutions where food is served to prisoners or other people in state custody.
Nathan Deal- Georgia
In 2012, when Governor Deal learned that children aged between 10-17 in Georgia had the second highest obesity rate (40%), he decided to do something about it. That year, partnered with the Georgia Department of Public Health and launched Georgia SHAPE, a statewide program merging governmental, philanthropic and academic and business communities to address childhood obesity. Nathan Deal has said “We must work together to improve the health of children in our state. Some suggest that we’re raising the first generation of American kids to have shorter life expectancy than their parents because of problems related to obesity. We can and will do better to promote healthy lifestyles.” We appreciate that Governor Deal acknowledges that childhood obesity has serious immediate and long-term effects not only on health and well-being, but also on the academic achievement of children and the economy of his state.
Jerry Brown- California
In 2012, Governor Chris Christie called Jerry Brown an “old retread” which the California governor did not appreciate- so he challenged him to a fitness test! The then 74-year old Jerry Brown said “Not as much hair, I’m slowed down a little bit. But I have to tell you, I ran three miles in 29 minutes two nights ago … and I hereby challenge Gov. Christie to a three-mile race, a pushup contest and a chin-up contest. And whatever he wants to bet, I have no doubt of the outcome.” The now 76-year old is no stranger to impromptu displays of strength. Four years ago he challenged a reporter to do 11 chin-ups, then did 12 himself! He also cares about the fitness of kids in California and has also partnered with Jake Steinfeld’s Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports to award schools that are demonstrating positive impact on the physical activity, fitness levels and well-being of California children.
Rick Scott- Florida
In 2011, Governor Scott launched a Wellness Challenge in his state that recognizes schools making a positive difference in the lives of Florida’s students by promoting fitness, wellness and a healthier lifestyle. He said “I believe that healthy bodies are linked to healthy minds. Physical activity and education, along with balanced nutrition, are the tools that give school children the strength and focus they need to succeed in the classroom.” He continues “Fitness and nutrition are strongly linked to healthy minds. As we work to provide our students a good education, it is important to also teach them how to fuel their bodies and minds through balanced diets and physical activity. These tools will allow Florida’s children to succeed not only in the classroom, but also throughout their lives.”
Phil Bryant- Mississippi
In his state of address after his inauguration in 2012, Governor Bryant said this on the need for fitness in Mississippi: “As citizens, we must do a better job with our individual healthcare. Every Mississippian should realize that a sound diet and exercise program will save lives and reduce health care costs. We should not be the most obese state in the nation, leading the worst statistics of heart attacks and strokes. Walk, run, go to the gym, plant a garden or ride a bike. Getting active is key to your own health care and I again intend to lead by example.” He also invited the people of Mississippi to join him at his “5K Governor’s Run for Health” which he aims to host every summer during his tenure. Bryant believes each of us has to take responsibility for our personal health, and that a family run is a great way for people to get active and improve their wellbeing.
John Hickenlooper- Colorado
Hickenlooper hails from one of the fittest states in the nation, so it only makes sense he is himself a model of fitness. As governor he still finds plenty of time to train, working out at Inward Fitness in Denver. When he was mayor of that city he promoted fitness for all of his constituents through the Spring Into Health Mayor’s Walk through the cities beautiful botanical gardens. He also implemented a “stairs-only” policy to promote health and fitness among his staff. He has expanded the Colorado Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness to further prevent obesity and reduce type 2 diabetes. (His caption to the photo above that he posted on facebook was: According to the 2015 America’s Health Rankings report, #Colorado is still the leanest, most physically active state in the nation. We’ve got the lowest rate of diabetes, too! Now let’s get back out there. Holiday dinners are fast approaching… #armday#legday #everyday)
Greg Abbott- Texas
The Texas governor National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils alongside Gov. Greg Abbott, aims to encourage students to exercise by dubbing three schools “National Champion Schools” and awarding them $100,000 fitness centers. Abbott suffered an accident while jogging that placed him in a wheel chair, making him only the third governor in US history to use a wheel chair. He was also a runner on the track team in high school. Abbott is also an avid sportsman and hunter, enjoying the great outdoors in the Lone Star State.
Peter Shumlin- Vermont
Vermont is one of the healthiest states in the entire nation, but Governor Peter Shumlin endeavors to make his state even healthier. Shumlin leads by example and lives a healthy life on his own. In his free time he enjoys running, hiking and cross country skiing. He likes to fish, hunt and garden and can sometimes be found spreading manure and cutting hay at his farm. He has also promoted the preventative power of medicine. He started Exercise is Medicine, a global health initiative that highlights the importance of physical activity in the prevention, treatment and management of chronic diseases. He also teamed up with local physicians to create the Park Prescriptions program, the Vermont State Parks, the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the Vermont Department of Health telling people to get outside and enjoy nature.
Scott Walker- Wisconsin
This Wisconsin Governor has always had healthy living on the top of his to-do list and even appeared on Sesame Street to inspire kids to eat healthy and be active – a very noble act considering the childhood obesity rate is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2013, he showed how eating healthy is important when he published his book The Eating Clean Simple Diet (Foods That Help You Lose Weight). Governor Walker shows his concern for healthy lifestyle in politics by signing legislation that promotes workplace wellness. He is also part of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health to help improve fitness, health, and nutrition programs with fitness legend Jake Seinfeld. He keeps his own health up by making sure to get in 10,000 steps a day.