Doctors' Orders: How Obama Can Survive His First 100 Days

Expectations are high for President Obama's first 100 days.

Can he fix the economy and the housing crisis? Will he fulfill his promise to withdraw American troops from Iraq and increase the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan? What will he do about continuing tensions in the Mideast?

Talk about stress.

If his first day on the job is any indication — it’s believed Obama got little more than an hour’s sleep Tuesday night — the president is going to need to keep up his strength, mentally and physically, to weather the coming months.

In Pictures: See How Presidents, Past and Present, Get Fit. asked an internist, a psychiatrist and an orthopedic surgeon to weigh in on what the 44th president can do to stay fit during the first 100 days of his administration.

Here’s what the doctors ordered:


“The 3 a.m. emergency phone call aside, if you don’t get your 7 hours of sleep a night, recent studies have shown your risk of heart disease, stroke, weight gain, diabetes and cancer go up,” said Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist and associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. “Lack of sleep interferes with thinking as well."

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and FOX News contributor, said he understands why Obama is currently burning the candle at both ends, but he doesn’t recommend it.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be too much of a risk to his health,” he said.


Once Obama’s first 100 days are up, he needs to hit the gym hard and regularly each day, said Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and author of “Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age.”

“He needs to say this is the time I’m working out every day and have his staff put it in his PDA that he doesn’t want to give up,” she said. “It’s important to keep his body strong and keep his brain supple.”

For the first 100 days, he can improvise, Wright said. For aerobic fitness, she suggests walking up and down a flight of stairs or walking on a treadmill, both of which Obama can do while on the phone, reading papers or working out strategies in his head.

For flexibility, he should spend 15 minutes a day stretching in the Oval Office or in his personal quarters. Again, he can do this while conducting business. For resistance, he should stand against a wall and do squats. And for balance, which is important to maintain in middle age, he can rotate standing on one foot for 30 second intervals.


Bill Clinton’s love of fast food has been well-documented, as was the quadruple bypass he needed after he left office. Doctors say Obama must be careful not to fall into the trap of eating comfort food as a means of dealing with stress.

“The emphasis is on going green,” Siegel said. “Not only should the world go green, the White House diet should be green as well.”

Siegel suggests limiting meats and sticking to lean cuts, eating lots of vegetables and keeping dairy intake to a minimum.

“Caution on the cream sauces and watch out for all the saturated fats,” he added.

No Smoking

Butt out — for good. That means no more bumming cigarettes, which Obama admitted to doing on the campaign trail.

“Smoking and stress combined are terrible,” Siegel said. “So my suggestion is that he gets off the cigarettes as soon as possible if he hasn’t already. The most effective way to quit is cold turkey.”

Don’t Be Surprised by Criticism

“When someone is embraced like he has been almost as a savior or a powerful father figure, it wouldn’t be unexpected if he were subjected to strong criticism during his administration,” Ablow said. “It could be as intense as the hope. That’s a natural psychological cycle, it’s bound to be the case.”

Ablow said America's desire to be “saved” could create the type of environment in which Obama feels the need to measure himself against the kind of energy a superhero would summon.

“He’s not Superman,” Ablow said. “He will need to speak to the American people about the pace that will summon real change. He needs to verbalize that things will get better, but in a step-like fashion. That way, he’ll hear the echoes of those words and they will serve as reminders.”

Ablow said “slow and steady” progress is what the public can expect, with “some setbacks along the way.”

Stay Centered Mentally

Part of Obama’s charm is his ability to be at peace during the storm, Ablow said. For example, he took the time to go to Hawaii at the end of December and he volunteered to paint a wall prior to his inauguration.

“That is perceived as real strength,” Ablow said. “It’s the amount of intellectual, psychological and spiritual power you maintain because you are not swallowed up by the process from your own perch.”

Finally, Ablow said Obama’s health and mental well-being are of utmost importance because of the country’s already depressed state of mind. If the president’s mood were to shift or if his actions were poor, the whole nation would feel debilitated.

Talking to a therapist is not a bad idea, Ablow said.

“I consider the art of psychiatry to be an extremely helpful — I’ve seen it make CEOs particularly productive and politicians particularly resilient,” Ablow said.'s Jessica Doyle and Karlie Pouliot contributed to this story.