America’s new health-conscious leader is putting Brian Cowen and our TDs to shame. Our politicians must really make a bigger effort to improve their own health before they even try to knock the economy back into shape

For the last few months, the eyes of the world have been focussed on Washington as the United States prepared to welcome its new president, Barack Obama, into office.

Obama is in a different league to other international political figures. He demonstrates what a middle-aged politician interested in his health can look like, especially when you put him in comparison with, for example, our own Brian Cowen.

When the mood of the economy is low, it is important to have fit, energetic leaders in positions of power because once a man hits 40, the risk of heart disease, cancer and strokes, as well as conditions like arthritis, rise.

Obama’s approach to his health is in stark contrast to Ireland’s TDs. He is someone whom everyone can learn from.

Our TDs have acted like absentee landlords, enjoying a six-week Christmas holiday from the Dail while the nation’s economy is in crisis. Frequent exercisers who also took a break can testify to the difficulty in getting back into their regular fitness regime.

Since his election in November, Obama has continued to workout every day without fail. People who claim to have little time to exercise are put to shame as the busiest man on the planet manages to do what they seemingly can’t.

He is dedicated to keeping his body fit for office. During the presidential race, his staff ensured that a workout was built into his daily schedule, no matter what.

It meant that they had to ring gyms on his campaign stops to ask them to alter hours to accommodate their candidate’s workout.

Barack Obama - Men's HealthObama (right) recently told Men’s Health: “The main reason I do it is to clear my head and relieve me of stress. Most of my workouts have to come before my day starts and I train for 45 minutes, alternating weight training and cardio, six days a week.

Exercise is an important stress reliever, as Dr Michael Roizen, who has assessed the medical records of presidents as far back as Theodore Roosevelt, believes one year in the White House equals two in the rest of the world when it comes to stress.

The world of health-conscious leaders is not confined to America. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy is the first French president to have a personal trainer in the Elysee Palace. His desire to hire a professional stems from press taunts, which accused him of looking a bit thick around the middle while out jogging.

Sometimes shame is a good incentive for men to initiate a change. Emotion triggers motion and super Sarko took the advice of his wife Carla Bruni to hire a trainer and alter his nutrition. Now nine pounds lighter, the reformed chocoholic is in a healthier state to lead his nation.

Barack Obama has regular basketball sessions with staff and friends and has said he wants to build a basketball court at the White House.

This will help build a great team ethic in his offices, while here in Ireland, the only team spirit seems to be in the famous Dail bar.

It has often been said that a healthy body will lead to a healthy mind. In order for our body to function at its peak, we must eat fresh fish and vegetables, stay hydrated, and sleep and exercise well in order to free our body from toxins.

In a world where there are rising rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity, we and our leaders must control our own destinies.

To enhance life’s journey, we must make a decision to choose between disease and health. The question you must ask yourself is — which path will you choose?

Leaders are put on a pedestal and the attitude of the nation will mirror the attitude of their leader.

Our TDs must make a bigger effort to improve their own health before they embark on improving the health and economy of the nation.

Obama is performing his duties for America, while Sarkozy is leading France in these challenging economic times.

The question is, which one of Ireland’s political leaders will step up to the plate and take action?

As Mahatma Gandhi once said: “We must be the change we want to be.

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