MSNBC-Will Femia: Welcome Mr. Swann and congratulations. Are you at the White House right now?
Lynn Swann: Thank you very much. I’m at the White House, on the South Lawn.
MSNBC-Will Femia: What exactly does the chair of the fitness council do?
As the chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports,
I am charged with carrying forth the message that that president gave this
morning in terms of his goals for American physical fitness. He wants a healthier
us, a healthier U.S.
The goals for fitness are fourfold :
He wants to encourage everyone, children, adults, and senior citizens, to
do some form of exercise. Something to get physically fit every day. It doesn’t
have to be something extreme. We’re talking about 30 minutes, maybe and hour
at the most, it could be ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes in the afternoon,
ten minutes in the evening, but every day get some kind of exercise in because
the benefits are so important.
A balanced diet. To eat better so that you give your body what it needs to function and give it a chance to get stronger.
Screening and testing. There are a lot of test that you can take like getting
your blood pressure checked, stress test, things like that, to see where
you stand so that you know what you need to do to make sure that you are
healthy. And then go from there with a program. And if you’re a senior citizen
or have some kind of medical problem, you check with your doctor to determine
what you should do.
Make healthy choices. There are things that we can do or decisions that we
can make that will give us the opportunity to be healthier and stronger.
There are decisions that we can make that would cause us not to be healthy
and stronger. We want to not abuse alcohol, to avoid cigarette smoking, and
we want to make those decisions that allow us to stay healthy. Small things
too, which are important, like always make sure you wear a helmet when you
ride your bicycle.
Question from Barbara Carlson:
I noticed promotion of bicycle safety on the press release that came out
this morning. Does that mean more bicycle lanes to ride in? in my town you
take your life in your hands if you want to ride your bike anywhere other
I think many of the cities around the nation have created safe bicycle lanes
or there are programs called “rails to trails” where they’ve taken old railroad
lines and turned them into trails. Many of our national parks, our community
parks, our city parks have biking trails. I think there are opportunities
to ride at some of our schools, to be able to get out on their tracks and
to ride there.
You can get out and get that kind of
exercise. There are lots of good places to ride. You just need to be safe
and make that smart decision about wearing a helmet and protective gear so
that when you get out there you’re safer. If there’s a accident then the
only accidental injury is a scratch or a scrape instead of a head injury.
So we advise people to wear helmets, wear safety gear and ride responsibly.
MSNBC-Will Femia: Do you already have a list of ideas in your head that you want to pass on to the president?
There are a number of ideas and initiatives that we could take, but I think
what my plan is is to take the president’s charge of making a healtheir “us”
and try to communicate that message first to the nation on an ongoing basis.
I think before people start working out, they need to know what to. And we
need to charge them and motivate them to go out and work out and let them
know what the benefits are, keeping our society away from this trend towards
obesity and heart disease and diabetes and strokes and increased cancer issues
as it relates to obesity. We need to stop those things.
So I’m trying to get that message out for the President and then we’ll
start looking at various programs that we can initiate or that we can just
replicate around the country that already work. We don’t want to reinvent
the wheel. There are a lot of people out there who are doing good things
right now. We want to take those programs and transport those ideas around
the country to various places so more people can get physcially fit.
Question from JunkfoodJunkie: Does this mean no more pizza in school lunches?
LOL! I believe when we talk about looking at the nutritional aspect of things,
that we want a balanced meal which means more fruits and more vegetables.
And all things should be in moderation. You can’t expect to lose weight if
you don’t exercise and you’re constantly eating. You can’t expect to lose
weight if you do a little bit of exercise but everything you eat is not healthy
and nutritious and doesn’t support the goals you have in mind.
I think we just have to make sure we do things in moderation. You’re
not going to stop people from eating snack foods and eating foods that are
as healthy as raw vegetables and fruits and that kind of thing, but you want
to do it in moderation. Even the healthy foods you want to eat in moderation,
you just don’t want to overeat.
Question from Smokey:
What do you think of California’s tax on junk food? Do you think that good
health can be encouraged with economics or can it not happen unless people
have the willpower to stick to a program?
I think it’s important that people develop their own lifestyle and their
own habits. This has to be a personal choice. This is not something that
can be legislated. We’re trying to encourage people to lead a healthier and
physically active lifestyle. We’re not trying to mandate it. Certainly people
have different schedules and there are certain things they can and cannot
do. We encourage them to do what they can do, but we’re certainly not in
a position to try and dictate, mandate, or tax them on their eating habits.
MSNBC-Will Femia: Speaking of economic incentives,
what do you think of that story yesterday of the airlines charging extra
for people who are too big to fit in one seat?
I think those are issues around the airlines in terms of their revenue and
capacity for airplanes and not the same as we’re dealing with here. Certainly
we would like to encourage more people to be fit. But being fit does not
necessarily mean that you’re going to be pencil-thin. There are just some
people who are bigger in the world, and other health issues as to why some
people have additional weight.
What we just want people
to do is just to be more physically active so that they derive the benefits
from physical activity and are healthier. Over 270 billion dollars are spent
a year on preventable diseases and health related issues $117 billion this
year related to diabetes and obesity for to children. These are things that
can be prevented. If you attack it from that standpoint, there will be positive
benefits in a variety of areas.
Question from Sheila Watson:
I am completely upset at the high rates of childhood obesity in this country.
How can people just sit and watch their kids get fat and unhealthy?
Question from Rubytuesday: Should parents force kids to play youth sports, to let them see if they have an interset in them?
The parents have to be involved in the early decisions about what their children
do on all levels. Certainly we hope parents get involved personally with
their children in some physical activity whether it’s the family walking
together, hiking together, jogging together, playing basketball together,
biking together, all of those things I think become very important.
I don’t think you should force your children to do things that they’re
not going to want to do because the children sometimes will rebel. But I
certainly think it’s important to involve them in activities and let them
have the experience and then they can see what that experience is like and
hopefully they’ll find a sport or several sports that they enjoy and take
up and they’ll do for the long haul
We want to focus on all of America, senior citizens and adults, but
the reason we focus on children a lot is that if we get the children to understand
the value of a healthy us, and working out and being physically fit, it becomes
a priority in their life for the rest of their life.
So the chances are that they’re going to be healthier throughout their
entire life as opposed to overeating, not exercising, gaining additional
weight, developing other problems as a result of not being able to handle
the stress of their lives.
Question from Jack:
Don’t you think it’s kind of ironic that we’re all sitting here at our computers
turning into fat lumps “talking” about fitness? Maybe Bush should just outlaw
computers and video games, then watch how much exercise everyone gets. TV
Lynn Swann: The computer is a wonderful
tool, but it should not be a way of life for everybody where you sit in front
of the computer and you do nothing else. Even if it’s your job for eight
hours to be in front of the computer and work on computers, in your own time
we need to find ways to increase our physical activity so that you have the
endurance and stamina when you’re sitting there to concentrate in front of
Certainliy you can’t walk around a track
with a lap top, it’s kind of uncomfortable to do that and work out at the
same time. But some people, like kids who play their hand held computer games
could do that while they’re walking around a track or do that while they’re
hiking, they’re battery operated.
So there are a lot of things that they can do together. There are
people who have an awful lot of reading and work to do on a daily basis,
but they could probably sit on a stationary bike and ride and read a lot
I do that for football games. I get on the stationary bike, I put
tapes in of football teams I have to cover, and I watch those teams and make
notes while I ride the bicycle.
A couple weeks ago we chatted with a fitness expert who talked about how
important it is just to move around, even if you don’t formally keep track
of heart rate and things like that. Do you think people are turned off by
the technicalities of exercise and end up not doing anything?
Lynn Swann: I
think sometimes there’s so much information that people feel like they have
to have it and the information can turn them off. But I believe that if you
just go out an exercise and enjoy what you’re doing and participate, then
you’ll derive the benefits.
Those people who want
to go to the next level who need that statistical information, who need to
know what their heart rate is and how many minutes and all those things,
they’ll seek it out and they’ll find it. It’s important to them and they’ll
For many of us it’s not that important. The important issue is just
to get out and be active and get that physical exercise.
Question from Donald Rogers:
Everywhere I look I see people drinking bottled water. Isn’t this a good
sign that Americans are being healthier and not drinking so much soda?
People drinking bottled water is a good sign they’re hydrated, but doesn’t
mean they’re healthier. If you look at the numbers and statistics, obesity
is an increasing problem in our nation. There are over 300,000 children who
have been diagnosed as obese. There are more adults who are becoming obese.
From 1990 to 2000 it has risen, the percentages are on the rise. There importance
is to stop it now and turn those numbers around and start lowering those
It doesn’t take a gargantuan effort, it just
takes modest, consistent exercise. Watching your diet, making healthy choices,
staying away from the excesses in life. There are people who are going to
have a drink, but don’t abuse alcohol. There are people who are going to
overeat at times, but don’t overeat three times a day, seven days a week.
You may have your favorite meal and it might have a big desert at the end
of it and you enjoy that, but if that’s every day and you don’t exercise,
then you’re going to gain weight.
So it has to be a balance. It has to be your mind, body, and spirit.
And you’ve got to make the decision to exercise and that has to be a priority
in your life.
The President of the United states has a very stressful and high pressure
job. He has to deal with the tragedies of terrorism, 9/11, trying to be a
peacemaker in the Middle East, domestic policies and issues, but he has a
priority in his life to work out, to be in shape, and that priority has put
him in a wonderful position in terms of being able to deal with all of these
stressful circumstances when they occurred so that he could still be a clear
thinker. He could be cognizant of all the issues going on. That he does not
suffer from fatigue in the midst of his job. He does that because physical
fitness has always been a priority in his life.
Question from Rubytuesday:
I went to a school field day and was shocked at the number of overweight
children who couldn’t compete. Should schools get back to more legitimate
Lynn Swann: I think for those
schools who have programs, that ‘s wonderful, but this has to be a personal
choice. There are a lot of programs and things kids do when they’re in school
but once they’re out of school they just forget about them. They don’t want
to be involved in them anymore for a variety of reasons.
What we want to do is have people understand that physical fitness
has to be a personal choice. They have to find a way every day in their life
to get some kind of activity in, whether it’s walking to school, riding your
bike to school, forming a health club at school to look at the issues of
physical fitness and eating more nutritionally and so that they carry this
with them for the rest of their lives.
Question from Pricilla:
We hear more and more about all of the health risks associated with obesity
and how obesity related diseases are on the rise in the US because obesity
is on the rise in the US. What can the government do to head off the huge
health costs of obesity? Lawsuits? Legislation?
I don’t know if there’s any one way to do it, but certainly to head off obesity
and the related ills caused by obesity is to not get there. To watch your
weight, to exercise, to be consistent about it, and to make the right healthy
choices. All the things we’re talking about today will help would help to
lower the number of people who are obese in this country. If people continue
on this program of physical fitness and nutrition and healthy choices and
the preventative program, then those numbers are going to go down drastically
and they’re not going to continue to grow. So we need to pursue this, we
need to push this, and we need to make it happen.
Question from DaveP: What type of exercise routine do you recommend?
My recommendation is for everyone to do an exercise program that they will
continue to do on a consistent basis. You can’t do what I do unless you’re
willing to do it all the time. So it doesn’t make sense for me to recommend
to anyone to do the same program that I do because a lot of people don’t
have the time or it’s too much. So you need to find something that’s good
for you, something that you enjoy.
If you enjoy riding
a bike, make that your way of consistently getting your exercise. If you
enjoy playing basketball, make that your way of getting your exercise. Even
if you’re a golfer, instead of taking the golf cart, walk 9 holes or walk
18 holes, it’s a good form of exercise. Walking your dog is a good form of
exercise. You should do anything that will help you to increase your physical
fitness levels that will be consistent in your life.
And if there are health issues, you certainly want to check with your doctors first before you start anything.
MSNBC-Will Femia: Thank you very much for joining us today Mr. Swann. Can you give us some closing comments before we have to let you go?
Lynn Swann: We are a nation that depends on its citizens to keep us strong and to make us stronger.
In the aftermath of 9/11, when we think of the firemen and policemen
who charged into a dangerous situation running upstairs to save lives and
lost their lives, when we think about the people on the airline who stopped
one of the planes from crashing into a building and it crashed into a who
crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, we don’t know when, we don’t know where
an individual will be called upon to act to do something that will save lives.
We need a healthier, stronger nation of individuals to be a healthier,
stronger nation. So we’re encouraging everyone to be more physically fit,
to be more aware of what it means to be physically fit. To create balance
in your life in terms of your nutrition, in terms of your healthy choices
and decisions and the ways to prevent bad health and to give yourself a chance
to be the very best you can be.
A healthier nation is going to be a more confident nation and we need
in our nation today for everyone to take steps to be stronger, to be more
confident, and to be there to help each other in their time of need.