What do we all want when we get older? To be fit and healthy and pretty much as we are today, just a slightly wrinklier version; to be wise also, like a village elder, (or at least not brain addled) …and wealthy? That’s lowest on my list. I just need to curb my Amazon clicking habit.
My friend Brenda and I recently went to see Strictly Come Dancing at the MEN Arena. It was FAB-U-LOUS! We had no preconceptions of the show, thinking that maybe a few of the dancers from the TV would be there and that the audience would be acting as the judges. We had Stacey Dooley as hostess, a perfect choice, Bruno, Craig and Shirley. There were also most of the finalists and several of the other wonderful competitors of the show. We girls got very excited about watching Kelvin Fletcher, the winner, with his new partner, Janette. (It would have been perfect if Oti had been there!)
The happiest moment was when in the final show dance, the judges joined in and there was Shirley, well into middle age, shimmying on high heels and proving that she is still a force to be reckoned with and the equal of the younger dancers.
Dancing is one of the best forms of exercise and because it includes feats of memory to recall the steps, it is doubly helpful in prevention of dementia. All forms of exercise are good, however, the most important thing being to choose something you love and want to do regularly.
A study, earlier this year at Loughborough University, looked at the option of ‘PACE’ food labelling, where all packaged foods may have labels showing the exercise needed to ‘offset’ the calories consumed. The idea is that you ideally exercise more and are put off from having the higher calorie options. If it puts people off having syrup-laden fancy coffees, then I’m all for it!
Some examples include: 42 mins of walking or 22 mins running for a small chocolate bar; 50 mins swimming for a sandwich; 100mins cycling for a portion of fish and chips; 1 hour’s running for a large pack of tortilla chips or 1 hour of yoga for a pint of beer.
The worry is that ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’ and that some people might put in the exercise, feeling that it entitles them to the muffin or doughnut afterwards. They would be much better having e.g. a banana; hummus and vegetable batons; or oatcakes with peanut butter and water rather than a highly sugared energy drink.
Another study has shown that keeping to a healthy lifestyle from middle age, including regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, staying slim and minimising alcohol can add quality years to your life, leading to a good and healthy old age. The last fact is crucial, as you wouldn’t prioritise living longer if it was in poor health. Some people who live ‘fast’ and indulgently mutter about not wanting a lengthy old age, but they are missing the point.
So, find an exercise that gives you joy, choose healthy but delicious foods and indulge yourself with time spent with the people you love the best.