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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Today's guest: Lynn Swann, Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports

Lynn Swann
Lynn Swann
Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
July 18, 2003

Lynn Swann
Hello I'm Lynn Swann I'm happy to be with you this morning and I am excited about being able to talk to you about the and the work on the President's Council of Physical Fitness and Sports

John, from NY writes:
What do you think parents should do to make sure their children get plenty of exercise?

Lynn Swann
John, the most important thing is for parents to encourage their children and to exercise with them. Exercise need not be an arduous or difficult task -- it can be fun, stimulating and provide great moments for families to not only exercise together but to talk and share other important aspects of their lives. Parents should be aware that they shouldn't make it all about competition every step of the way. Especially if their children have a weight problem or a health issue that might not allow them to be the best athlete in that community. We are about physical activity and physical health.

Adam, from NY writes:
What is your take on karate and weightlifting?

Lynn Swann
Adam, I believe that weightlifting and karate are two great forms of exercise and very beneficial to your overall health. I have two boys who are five and seven years old. My seven year old is in his third year of karate and my five year old son is in his first year.

I continue to lift weights and I lift more weights now than I did when I was a professional football player. And in either one of those sports it is extremely important to get good coaching and make sure that you are technically sound in what you do.

Stephanie, from Illinois writes:
Dear Mr. Swann, It has been said that the U.S. has become one of the most obese nations in the world. As chairman, is it part of your job to get America in shape? If so, what are your suggestions to stay healthy?

Lynn Swann

Unfortunately America's weight problem has been growing over the last 20 years. We spend over $250 billion a year on obesity and obesity related illnesses and disease. What we have to do is become more active and more conscious of what we are eating. That is to say, you can still have your comfort food but maybe we shouldn't eat quite so much of it. We have to find the right balance of exercise and nutrition. is a great tool to motivate people of all ages, of all levels (in terms of physical fitness), to exercise and make it a lifestyle commitment.

Joanna, from Charlotte, NC writes:
This Ask the White House will be the 7th one that I have submitted a question to, but I have yet to have any of them answered. So I would greatly appreciate it if you could answer my question.

As a college student, I have found that it is hard to eat right and exercise regularly while at school. Do you have any suggestions for college students to stay healthy?

Lynn Swann

I understand how busy life can get. But if it is something that is important -- and your health is -- then you have to schedule the time for physical activity just like you schedule your time for the classroom. I graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in public relations in four years. In those four years, I obviously played varsity football, we had spring practice and regular workouts in between all of those things. Because I was commmitted to playing football on a scholarship , I worked my class schedule around the need to be at practice.

So, you have to decide when you want to work out. What kind of physical activity is good for you. Schedule it and stick to it. Make it fun. We don't want people to beat themselves up about fitness, we want them if possible to enjoy it and find the fun activities that make the time go by. In many cases, do one of the things around your house -- take a job or project that needs to be done and make that a part of your productive physical regimen -- like in my case, I go out and split wood for the fireplace. Great upper body workout. Take the stairs and not the elevator, for example.

I was walking down the street and I was talking to a women I never met before and she told me that there are -- in her home -- forty seven steps in her house to the street and she and her daughter calculated that if she made a roundtrip nine times during the course of a day, she said that was close to a mile. She said she usually made the trip -- going to see a neighbor, going to a store, going to work -- 10 times.

And over the last year, she has lost 50 pounds. I call that a productive move.

Deborah, from Louisville, Kentucky writes:
Mr. Swann What is the best advice you can give for someone that needs to lose fifty pounds or more. There are so many products that claim rapid weight loss, but are they safe?

Lynn Swann
First, if you feel there is a need to lose 50 pounds, you should talk to your doctor to give you a credible evaluation and suggestion for a workout program and diet. Then you have to be consistent and stay with the program. The diet programs in terms of food packages and meal concepts are there to make things more convenient for those who can't do it on their own. I would think that the companies who have been producing these products for many years tested these food packages and these programs over and over again and should be sound, but most of it goes back to the individuals effort to be more physically active in conjunction with good dietary habits.

Chris, from Dallas, Texas writes:
How did you become the Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports?

Lynn Swann
When Governor Bush became President, I knew I wanted to be on the Council because when I covered football games at the University of Texas, the head coach Mack Brown told me about the President's consistent workout programs. So I knew that President Bush believed in physical activity and fitness. So I applied for the position online and had several people write letters on my behalf as recommendations.

Paul, from Winchester, VA writes:
Swanny, I have been a long-time fan of yours since I met you years ago when I met you when I lived in Pittsburgh. It seems like the Presidential Fitness Award program is not promoted like it was when I was in school in the seventies and early eighties. What is your plan, and my man W could not have made a better choice! Best Wishes- Paul Steelers Forever!

Lynn Swann
Well Paul, thank you for being a Steeler fan and thank you for being in tune with the President's Council. Our plan is to be very pro-active and in the time that we are on the Council we want to create a program that will be a good tool and provide motivation for America to be physically fit. And so the new website can be that tool to help move the country away from its growing climb toward obesity.

Rebecca, from Washington, DC writes:
With all these weight loss programs on the market, what in your opinion is the best? Also, do you believe that excercising in the morning is better than in the evening? How much cardio is truly required to obtain a good workout? Thank you very much!

Lynn Swann
Rebecca The best time to workout is whenever you schedule it. I am a morning person when it comes to a regular work out program because my days can change very dramatically. Some people prefer to workout after a day of being on the job. Some people will take a lunchbreak and squeeze in some exercise. As an adult, I believe that 30 minutes a day would be good in terms of cardiovascular exercise. My baseline workout is 45 minutes of cardio and 300 situps.

The key in terms of how you eat and what you eat is to get as much information about food, eat a balanced meal and eat according to your level of activity. I believe it was Harvard that came out with a study that says or suggests that we are not eating more as a nation but we are exercising less.

Lori, from Gresham OR writes:
What solution do you have for people that work all day at a desk that are physicaly unable to work out? Low Impact?? How do you get to the website to sign up?

Lynn Swann

There are exercise programs that you can do while you are at your desk. For your ankles, for your legs, for your upper body, for your hands. There are people who travel a great deal and it is important to move around - to get up and move around. Even if you are at your desk all day, it is important when you get a break to move around and not sit for a long period of time. If you have not been exercising, as I said earlier, you should see your doctor and get an evaluation healthwise before you embark on a program. Since this is a non-competitive issue and there is no need to try and run a marathon in your first work out, start slowly and build-up. Do something that you are capable of doing for the long-term. And that you will stick with.

RaidersFan, from Baltimore writes:
Did Frenchy Fuqua touch the ball?

Lynn Swann
To the Raiders fan, after careful research on my part, since I was not in Pittsburgh at that time, I was just a young college student...I have discovered from Frenchy that the officials made the right call. The officials made the right decision.

JAMES, from POTTSVILLE, PA writes:

Lynn Swann
If the opportunity presents itself, I may have to get there. My handicap, like most amateur golfers is a lack of practice and a lack of playing time and not being able to play with PGA golfers every week. Although I have had the pleasure of playing golf with Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Chris DeMarco and several more of the top players on the PGA tour. They have a tremendous work ethic and discipline about the game of golf. And like most things in life, if you work at it and you are consistent you'll be better.

Brian, from Pittsburgh, PA writes:
What do you think of the Steelers chances this year?!

Lynn Swann
Brian I hope in my heart that when the Super Bowl is played in Houston, 2004, that the Steelers will be there. Is it likely? That's another question. I certainly believe the Steelers will have a chance to be in the playoffs. And once you get there all things are possible.

Trim, from Rowland Heights, California writes:
What sport, if played correctly, is best as a work-out to lose weight?

Lynn Swann
Trim, I don't have any scientific data at this time to give you one sport that would help you lose more weight than any other, but let me give you what I think are a few that would do the trick. Crew -- somewhere along the way in my exercise programs I ve been on rowing machines and I believe in the research that some of our people with ABC were doing when getting ready for the Olympics in 1984 that they talked about the men and women who were rowing were some of the most fit people in terms of leg strength, upper body strength and cardiovascular -- of all the athletes. Certainly running, long distance running would fit in that category. When it comes to more traditional team sports, I would have to believe that soccer , lacrosse, basketball, field hockey would be among the best. The reason being is that there is continuous movement. While football is a great sport and there are a lot of people who are strong and fit, there is a lot of stop and go in football.

Lynn Swann
Thank you for taking the time send in questions. I apologize for not having enough time to take more of them. Please take the time to go to: and log in. Today is the time to take action to be more fit, to be healthier and to be stronger. Whatever motivates you to start working out as long as it is positive, use it. If it is because you want to look better, terrific. If it is because you want to feel better, great. But maybe the most important reason of all as we are living longer is to live better, to have the quality time with family and friends. Thank you.