When Teddy Roosevelt was in office, he had the White House basement coated with mats. An avid martial artist, the 26th president wanted to be able to grapple and practice judo throws without leaving his home. Then the youngest man to assume the presidency (he was 42), he injected a certain vigor into the role: He invited accomplished boxers to the White House to spar with him, he led ambassadors on intense hikes, and he once livened up a formal luncheon by tossing a Swiss minister to the floor to demonstrate a judo hold. Thrice.
Roosevelt was the only martial artist to occupy the oval office, but his enthusiasm for exercise fits a pattern that’s become more marked among recent presidents. It’s not hard to see the appeal of an active president to constituents: Being the leader of the free world is a demanding job, and it’s comforting to know the person filling it will make it to the finish line.
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