Is Santa Claus a healthy role model?

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published December 13, 2017

Key Takeaways

His wide girth. His penchant for staying out all night, riding in an open sleigh with no seatbelt, zooming around the world, climbing on snowy rooftops, and scrambling down dirty chimneys, only to eat millions of cookies.

Yes, Santa may be a paragon of virtue, but is he a picture of health?

Jennifer Caudle, DO, osteopathic physician, Rowan Family Medicine, Sewell, and assistant professor, Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ, weighed in.

“Well, by all accounts, he is over 550 years old and still very active, so maybe there’s more to his health habits than immediately meets the eye,” said Dr. Caudle, who is also a spokesperson for the American Osteopathic Association.

It seems that Santa may have a regular exercise program that he sticks to throughout the year so that he can remain “lively and quick” at Christmas time.

“Carrying all those toys requires strong bones and muscles, which also helps prevent falls, especially in older individuals, like Santa,” she said.

Contributing to this healthful side of Santa is an important lifestyle change he seems to have made over the past decade.

“Years ago, images of Santa often showed him smoking a pipe, but he seems to have kicked that habit,” Dr. Caudle said. “Tobacco use is still the single most preventable cause of death and disease in America. No matter how long an individual smokes, quitting has both immediate and long-term health benefits.”

Great job, Santa! But what about his body mass index? Isn’t it a little high?

“Even though he appears to have slimmed down a bit, Santa’s body mass index still seems to be quite high,” said Dr. Caudle, noting that obesity is a leading cause of diabetes and heart disease. “Those sugary snacks he enjoys at each stop on Christmas Eve can contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Children can help Santa stay healthy by leaving healthier choices, like carrot sticks or apple slices with peanut butter. These are good snacks for parents and children to share, too.”

All in all, Santa may have a healthier lifestyle than anyone initially imagined, and Dr. Caudle noted that perhaps this is what contributes to his overall well-being. For example, Santa has been married to Mrs. Claus since before any of us can probably remember.

“By all accounts, Santa and Mrs. Claus have been married for a long time, and some studies have indicated that married couples enjoy several health benefits, including being more likely to follow their health care provider’s advice,” Dr. Caudle said.

Next, Santa has pets—albeit unusual ones—another healthy aspect of his life. Pets, perhaps even reindeer, can contribute to a person’s overall health.

“According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having pets can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which are important for heart health,” she said. “Plus, a pet often encourages healthy exercise, like walking, and can open the door to opportunities for social interaction with other pet owners.”

Santa’s ability to fly around the world in one night in the dead of winter—while making millions of stops, carrying a sack of toys, and clambering in and out of his sleigh at his age—bodes well for his overall health, conceded Dr. Caudle.

“There may be some magic involved, but it is apparent that Santa will have no trouble filling Christmas wishes this year and for many more years to come,” she concluded.

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