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Still fit and fabulous at 78, age-defying fitness guru DIANA MORAN offers us her secrets to remaining healthy and happy in later life.

“Pensioners now outnumber children for the first time in British history,” she says.

“Grey power is growing; and without the social and economic restrictions of past generations, our generation has the opportunity to travel, make new relationships or continue with further education, irrespective of our age, gender, colour, class or creed.

“So youth had better start realising that there is life after 60! As they say, ‘age is mind over matter. And if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’ But to continue pursuing our hopes and dreams, and do all the things we want to do, we need to be fit and healthy.

“Maintaining fitness should be a necessity of life, not just an option. After all, we may not be able to add years to life, but we can add life to the years we have by remaining as active as possible.

“It’s true that there may be a decrease of physical ability for many in their 60s, others later, while some – although not all – people enter advanced old age still performing at the level of younger adults.

“But ageing and inability is not the same thing. Trouble is, today we use our brain instead of our brawn, often to the detriment of our physical wellbeing. We sit around too much at work and at home.

“Heart disease, joint problems, osteoporosis and digestive disorders are just some of the results. We need to get out of the habit of disguising physical and some mental problems as ‘just old age creeping on’.

Start walking

DianaGreenGoddess

“It’s common sense to keep fit, and it’s easy to help yourself by simply being more active. Start by doing something you enjoy for half an hour a day.

Walking, for example, is an excellent whole body exercise that will improve your health and keep you mobile. We can all get up off our bottoms and walk ourselves away from ill health and into a state of wellbeing!

Importantly, walking strengthens the big front muscles of your leg (the quadriceps) helping you maintain mobility and physical independence as years go by. The quadriceps enable you to get up from a chair unaided and to climb stairs. Since walking is a weight bearing exercise it can also help prevent osteoporosis.

A ten-minute walk a day can improve mental health

“Research by the Mental Health Foundation recently revealed that just 10 minutes brisk walking can improve our mental state too. The report stated it increases self-esteem and reduces stress and anxiety.

“And it concludes that people who regularly exercise have a 20-30 per cent lower risk of depression and dementia. It’s a fact that when we take exercise, chemicals called endorphins are released giving us that crucial feel-good factor.

“Keeping fit and active improves circulation, digestion and keeps our heart healthy. Exercise builds strong muscles and bones, it can increase your flexibility and co-ordination and helps control weight and improves your shape.

Being active can reduce feelings of loneliness

“So, combined with a well-balanced diet, regular and moderate exercise is essential for your wellbeing. I may hate diets and counting calories, but I know we need to be aware that a calorie is a measure of energy in the food we eat, and drink. Ideally, you need enough food to provide sufficient calories (energy) to go about your normal daily tasks, plus some left over for body growth and repairs. Get it right and you’ve a healthy balance. How much energy (calories) you need depends on your individual lifestyle. If yours is sedentary, eat less!

“But well being is not just about the body, it’s about the mind and spirit too. Being active can help reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety, stress and worry, so just get yourself out there, and get walking and talking.

“One blessing of older age is grandchildren. I’m lucky enough to have four, but not everyone is so fortunate. But I now find myself living alone, and like many of us, this is not through choice.

“Social interaction can reduce any feelings of loneliness and anxiety, and can lift your spirit. Climbing out of the spiral of depression isn’t easy so here’s a way to help others: if you see someone today without a smile, give them yours. It will cost you nothing, but you will make that person’s life richer.”

Diana was one of the original presenters to launch Breakfast Television in the UK in 1983. We all remember her shimmering in her figure-hugging emerald ensemble, which is how she came to be known as the Green Goddess.

Her fitness career has spanned four decades and she’s also written several books and fitness videos. Her latest DVD is called Easy Fit.

Extracted from The Guide to Later Life –
Practical Guidance & Tips, a free new ebook from McCarthy &
Stone. www.mccarthyandstone.co.uk/GuidetoLaterLife