Diet and Exercise in Old Age


In common with most Ol' Codgers of my age I was brought up during the many restrictions of the war years followed by strict rationing until the end of my school years. We now know however, that compared with the food eaten and activities of today, it was a far more healthy lifestyle. The total scarcity of sugar and salt, no fast foods other than fish and chips (occasionally), no white bread just nutritious brown/black, etc. Likewise with exercise. Very limited transport meant we either cycled or walked everywhere, and of course no television or computers to keep us kids in the house on a sunny day.

To a large extent I have continued that pattern of diet and exercise throughout my life, and it is only in the recent times of widespread obesity, diabetes, etc. that the press, TV and even Parliament have started to recognise the many dangers of limited exercise and unhealthy eating of many today. Most people now realise that something must be done if the NHS is to survive and that food choices and sedentary lifestyle has replaced smoking as the biggest killer.

One of the biggest advantages of age and retirement is that we have time. We don't have to dash off to catch the 7.30 train or bus to work so have ample time for an hour or so walk or cycle ride every day. We don't waste time and money simply to go a couple of miles to the High Street or Sainsburys by car, we walk using a big barrow which can also be towed by bike for longer distances, or we use panniers. Our Friday evening or Sunday lunchtime pint is enjoyed in local pubs up to 5 miles away so the several calories imbibed will be enjoyably walked off by the time we get home.

Drifting around the world in a sailing boat for 8 years, and numerous long distance cycle camping rides of a couple of months or more taught us the essential value of a good breakfast. Don't knock it until you try it.... ours is plain oats sprinkled with a teaspoon of pea protein powder, beetroot powder, brewers yeast, and a dessert spoon of inulin along with a large chopped banana covered in homemade yogurt and drowned in milk. The whole lot much cheaper than a sugary bowl of crackle pops and easy to buy in bulk to safely carry on journeys where shops are scarce.

At home, breakfast will be followed by an hour or so listening to the Today programme while working out in the gym. Not an expensive membership gym that is a drag to travel to, but in the second bedroom or other spaces around the house. Over the years, we have collected weights, indoor bike and rowing machine, but for many years it was just sand weighted milk bottles, charity shop throwaways or cheap bits and pieces from Lidl. This is not only to keep us fit for our winter skiing and other activities but just as much as to give us that feeling of well being without which we tend to feel lazy and lethargic all day.

In the past we have never courted publicity or sponsorship for any of our numerous adventures. With this one, however, due to it being the start of celebrations of my 80th year, I hope it might be picked up by fellow oldies as an inspiration to get on and do their particular thing. I honestly do not feel old and despite what some might call the disadvantage of only having one and a bit usable legs I expect to continue active lifestyle for many years to come.

We all know and see that the NHS and all other allied health services are struggling to cope. Statistics are constantly being quoted placing much of the blame on we oldies living longer , but not healthier. Other statistics point strongly to the proven facts that exercise and diet keeps one's motors ticking over much more efficiently than buckets full of pills, obviously not for everyone, but for a good few of us, enabling those who really need the health service to get better access to it.

Many people of my age and older are completing or attempting more extreme adventures than ever before, I have met several myself. Perhaps some could be collated and published as examples of what can be achieved irrespective of age. Such examples maybe could inspire others and perhaps in the longer term diminish some of the health problems of coming generations of older people, or is that just my wishful thinking? I can assure you one is never too old to start.

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