Fitness in Leadership: Kenyan Politicians Hit the Gym to Improve Health, Woo Voters

  • Many Kenyan politicians take their fitness quite seriously as it could sway some voters apart from affecting their health
  • Through the years, we have seen some politicians undergo impressive transformations after hitting the gym to lose weight
  • TUKO.co.ke took a deep dive into the matter and got insights from a renowned fitness trainer and a politician

The run-up to the general election is the busiest time for politicians, as they crisscross their areas of jurisdiction looking for votes.

Johnson Sakaja and Abdulswamad Shariff.
Johnson Sakaja and Abdulswamad Shariff are among politicians who transformed their physical appearance by working out. Photos:J ohnson Sakaja and Abdulswamad Shariff.
Source: UGC

Elections bring weight gain among politicians

Many politicians gain weight during this period with hectic schedules and little time to exercise. From the most prominent vying for the highest seat in the land to MCA, they all face similar challenges with weight.

For instance, after the 2013 election, Martha Karua admitted that she changed dress sizes.

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“I was pretty big, visibly so. About two dress sizes up. It was the height of campaigns, and I would have meals late at night. That caused my weight gain,” she said.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua expressed similar sentiments on the morning before his inauguration.

“I have not been able to work out.”

Speaking to TUKO.co.ke, former journalist Tony Kwalanda, who unsuccessfully vied for the Manda Shivanga Member of County Assembly (MCA) seat in the 2022 election, admitted that he gained weight.

“I am now two and half kilos heavier.”

Kwalanda said he never realised that the poor road network in the ward was a blessing in disguise.

“It is a very hilly place, and not all the roads are accessible even by bodabodas. Our terrain could not allow me to use a car for the campaign, so I had to walk a lot while campaigning, which helped me keep fit.

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Other politicians rarely walk- they get from the house to the vehicle and back.”

Charles Odongo, a famous fitness enthusiast who runs a modern gym in Ongata Rongai, also weighed in on the matter, stressing the importance of exercising no matter how busy one is.

Better known as Ugali Man for effortlessly swallowing vast chunks of the maise flour dish, he stressed the importance of physical activity.

“When you stay idle for long without physical training, you gain weight.

Many politicians rarely get time to work out. They go through a lot of stress, and physical exercise releases feel-good hormones that enable one to handle pressure better.”

Ugali Man also attributed some lifestyle diseases like heart attacks and stroke to inactivity.

“No matter how busy you are, find time to exercise. 30-45 minutes daily is enough.”

Politicians working on getting back in shape

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The fitness trainer said many politicians are hitting the gym and getting back in shape post-election.

In the case of DP Gachagua, he set up a gym at his home and promised to get back in shape within three months.

“I want to get from 94kg to 85kg, be in shape and fit into my old clothes,” he said.

Karua lost weight after the 2013 elections by dieting and playing golf.

“I work out on the treadmill slowly. I do stretches too,” she said.

Another unlikely source of exercise for Karua also came from her grandchildren.

“They make me run around even though my knees are not so good,” she said.

Most impressive politician transformations

Away from the election period, some leaders underwent impressive transformations, making them look younger and appeal to youthful voters.

Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Shariff went through a metamorphosis after being barred from skydiving during a Dubai trip.

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He opted for exercise rather than surgery, admitting it was not a walk in the park.

“I had to change my lifestyle and how I associate with the people I used to hang out with.”

Diet also played a key role in helping him attain a leaner frame.

“I soak dates overnight and drink the water in the morning before eating anything else. It is a natural source of energy, and it is a Sunnah (traditions and practices of the Islamic prophet Muhammad).”

Similarly, Nairobi county boss Johnson Sakaja lost a whooping 24kgs and shared the secret to his transformation.

“Diet is important. Reduce the quantities of food you eat and minimise carbohydrates. Add healthy foods and work out.”

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Source: TUKO.co.ke