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many older folk can give people 20 years younger a run for their money

Recently I was interested to read a report into the fitness of people aged 70 plus who exercise, compared to those several decades younger.  According to the Royal Voluntary Service research 79% of over 70’s regularly exercise, with walking, playing a sport, exercise classes and the gym all proving popular, with both men and women.  It suggests that many older folk can give people 20 years younger a run for their money!

The RVS encourages older folk to be responsible for their own wellbeing, and their volunteers run a broad range of activities to help older folk stay fit and active.  The charity believes whatever a person’s fitness and mobility level may be, regular exercise is vital to ageing well.  I entirely agree and believe it’s most important to look after yourself at any age.  The research found those people who have exercised regularly felt both mentally and physically fit, were supple, strong and full of energy.

I’m of the opinion that many older men and women, including myself, were fortunate to have been children in the 40’s and 50’s, a time when being physically active was just a normal part of childhood.  Most of us walked or cycled to school, took part in regular gym classes and playing sport was compulsory.  With the result we built healthy, supple bodies and in particular, strong bones, that now keep many of us moving around and enjoying life to the full.  I’m particularly interested in the bone disease, osteoporosis, in fact I am writing a book about it, and know from my research how vital it is to build up the “bone bank” in our youth. Strong bones will maintain our posture and literally stand us in good stead as grow older.  Weight bearing exercises are necessary for building strong bones and are simply natural movements we  regularly did as youngsters, walking, running, climbing trees, skipping and hopping to name a few!

With my “fitness guru” hat on and having grown up during and after the war, it worries me to observe today’s younger people who are far less active than my generation still are.  Yes, today they are lucky to have shiny new bikes, skate boards, the latest trainers and fitness gear plus the opportunity to participate in any activity that appeals, but they also have technology.  Now I love technology, mobile phones, computers, and TV’s, but unlike many younger people I don’t spend most of my spare time hunched up in front of them.

It has been proven that many of these younger people will not have banked enough bone during their formative years, when their skeleton is developing, to enjoy many years of active life in THEIR old age.  Obesity and other health issues often accompany inactivity, plus the associated risk of diabetes, an increasing problem. So, whatever your age “Move it or you might Lose it”!

For more information

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For these exercises you will need a small towel or exercise band

1        SIDE TWIST to keep your spine supple

Stand with your feet apart and lift your arms up to shoulder level.  Bend elbows and bring your fingertips together in front of chest.  Keep hips facing forward and twist only your upper body and head around to the right.  Come back to face centre, then take your upper body around to look left.  Repeat 10  times.

Stand with your feet apart and knees relaxed.  With your right arm, reach up and over your head, bending your left knee.  Bring your arm down and transfer your weight on to your right leg and reach up and over with your left hand.   (As if you are climbing up a rope.)  Repeat 10 times to alternate sides.

3        TOWEL UP to strengthen bones and keep upper body supple

Stand with feet comfortably apart, and hold both ends of a small hand towel out in front of you at shoulder level. Pull both ends, and keeping the towel taut, lift  up and over behind your head. Return up and over to the front. Repeat 10 times, pulling hard on both ends.

4        TOWEL RUB to keep back supple

Hold one end of  towel with your right hand, drop other end down behind your back. With left hand reach behind you to grasp the other end and pull towel taught. Extend your right hand up high, then pull the towel back down again with your left, in a sawing motion. Repeat 10 times. Reverse hands and continue 10 times to the other side.

Retirement and care

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Every day we get that little bit older and whoever we are may well start thinking about “retirement.”  When we were younger we assumed older people retired at 60 years of age.  We also thought many of them would need to be looked after because ageing was like an illness! Some people still assume we older folk are incapable of changing our lifestyle, opinions, our outlook, our religion or our politics because of our age!  Ageism had presumed that 60 years signified the end of a person’s productive life and from then on older folk became a burden on society and the health service.

But how things have changed and thankfully ageism has become a thing of the past. Many of us “not born yesterday” realise that some people who simply do retire may be wasting their knowledge and experience. For others who have simply retired, it can sometimes lead to decline and a feeling of worthlessness. Shattering the retirement myth of rocking chair and slippers  older people now have the choice of continuing to work on if they choose to whether for financial reasons or just because they love their job.  Alternatively many who do choose retirement use their time pursuing hobbies or fulfilling their lifelong dreams.

I can assure the younger generation that whichever choice we make either to retire or continue working we older people have a lot to offer, not least of which is experience. Like many of my contemporaries I still work, travelling the world as a fitness guru or nearer to home working as a broadcaster and journalist. I enjoy encouraging others of “retirement” age to be useful, fit and happy members of society.  And it’s fitness that can turn our later years of either working on or retiring into a satisfying and happy period of life.  Being healthy can alleviate the increasing strain on the health services, for which importantly in the future our younger generations will have to work hard to fund. Unfortunately some older people will be less than well, this may be the time to take advice on the care services available.

Most mature people over the age of 55 understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle; some have already been medically advised to start taking regular exercise!  Their excuses for not doing so range from lack of time, pressure of work or family. Many retired people of 60 plus wrongly consider they are too old, or feel it’s too late to worry about a healthy lifestyle. Happily others do try and feel that walking or golf are ample exercise, which is a positive start!  As the years pass by no matter what your age or fitness ability even doing some simple exercises in the privacy of your own home can make a difference. Feeling fit adds a quality and buzz to everyday life which will help to make your years of retirement a joy.

Do not attempt the following exercises if you have osteoporosis, a bad back or have balance problems.

1.WAKE UP MONKEY STRETCH will stretch out and wake up your body. Stand feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees, incline forward from the waist and swing arms down to floor and behind you. Now continue in a flowing movement to straighten knees and swing arms forward and high up above your head. Breathe deeply, lift rib cage, straighten up and stretch out entire body.  Repeat rhythmically 5 times.

2        LEG LIFTS will strengthen the quadriceps (front thigh muscles). Stand and hold back of a chair for support. Straighten right leg, point toes and lift leg high out in front and hold for 5 seconds. Keeping leg as high as possible and take it on around to side and hold for 5 seconds.   Relax leg down and repeat with the left leg.   Repeat 5 times with each leg. (Keep supporting leg soft).

3        CIRCLES will release tension in shoulders, upper back and improve posture. Stand or sit, bend your elbows and raise your arms to the side and simply place fingertips on your shoulders.   Keeping your fingertips in position bring your elbows forward and together in front of your chest.   Draw a circle with your elbows – lift them both up and take on out to either side and, then on back pulling your shoulder blades together, as far as comfortable.   Continue drawing imaginary circles with your elbows on down to sides and back to start position.   Repeat 5 times clockwise and 5 times anti-clockwise.

 4        SIDE TWISTS will improve the mobility of your shoulders and upper back. Stand or sit upright as before but concentrate on posture by pulling in your tummy.   Bend your elbows out, bring your hands up and touch your fingertips together in front of your chest.   Keeping your elbows up  twist from your waist only and take your upper body, arms and head to look around your right side (as far as comfortable.   Come back to centre and continue to twist arms and upper body to look around left side.   Keep elbows up, fingertips touching and repeat this twisting movement 5 times to each side, working the back and shoulders.

Too much sitting

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We sit to take the weight off our feet but sitting for too long can result in slack abdominal muscles and slumped posture encouraging cramp and indigestion.  Exercise helps to re-oxygenate your system and improve your circulation and digestion.  Reintroducing exercise for the less active and for those getting older or restricted in their movements is key to maintaining a sense of independence and quality of life.

Ex 1. To stretch upper body

Sit upright on chair with your arms by your sides. Keep your shoulders down and arms straight throughout. With palms forwards raise both arms out to the sides and up high as is comfortable, Return to start position. Repeat 5 times breathing out as you raise your arms up, and in as you lower them down.

Ex 2. To stretch out sides

From start position as before raise both arms out and up high AA comfortable and link your hands. Breathe out and take both arms over to your right side bending from your waist only and stretching out your left side. Arms back to centre and breathe in. Breathe out and take arms over to left side, then back to centre. Repeat to alternate sides 5 times

Ex 3.   To stretch out upper back and relieve back ache

Sit back comfortably in your chair, feet flat on the floor.   Place both hands around your right knee and lift right foot up off the floor.   Bend forward from your waist and take head down towards your knee (as far as comfortable).   Keep this position, lift elbows up out to the sides and round out your back.   Feel the stretch and hold for 10 seconds.   Return right foot to floor.   Repeat lifting your left foot and knee up and holding the stretch for a further 10 seconds.

I have become increasingly concerned about the appearance of my arms

woman in black sleeveless dress
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

Dear Diana

I have become increasingly concerned about the appearance of my arms so much so that I never reveal them even on hot summer days. The skin appears mottled, marbled even, and I most certainly have ‘bingo wings’. Is there anything that can be done ?

Valerie Gould, Bucks

Valerie you’re not alone, it happens after the first flush of youth!

Especially if there’s been a dramatic weight loss through dieting. By 35 upper arms are prone to flabbiness, the trick is to fight the flab by toning muscle and skin on the underside. My simple, but effective exercise targets the triceps muscle, at the back of the arm. Make the exercise harder by using hand weights or small plastic drinks bottles filled with water or sand.

Sit or stand, pull in your tummy, maintain a good posture.  Arms bent, make a fist (or the use weights) and hold up against your shoulders. Pull shoulder blades back together, and take your upper arms only back up behind you. Hold this position throughout exercise.  Straighten out lower arms; push them down and behind, turning fists out at the same time.  (Don’t “lock” elbows.)  Keep upper arms in position, bend elbows and bring fists or weights, back up to shoulders. Start with five repetitions; build up to ten or more. Feel back of upper arm working!

To improve mottled, marbled looking skin use an exfoliator on whole of the arm, including backs of hands and don’t forget rough, wrinkly elbows. This scrubbing is best done in the bath or shower when the skin is damp.  Rinse, then moisturise well both morning and night for maximum effect. Blotches caused by bad circulation respond to anti-cellulite creams (as on legs) to help speed up sluggish circulation.

A slight glow on the arms improves the look of the skin. Apply a small amount of subtle fake tan/moisturising cream (Dove) several times a week, to the length of your arm and across shoulder and chest (avoid elbows).  This subtle glow helps disguise sun spots the result of over exposure to the sun.

My nails are very flaky and appear to break at even the lightest bump

red and white manicure with love print

Photo by Designecologist on

Dear Diana

My nails are very flaky and appear to break at even the lightest bump. I do wear gloves for washing up and try and avoid using too many chemicals when doing housework but I can never seem to grown them all to the same length.

Joanna Williams, Cornwall

Long-term exposure to water or chemicals such as detergents and nail polish are most often the cause, so you are right Joanna to wear rubber gloves doing the chores, especially wet work.  Keep fingernails dry and clean to prevent bacteria from growing under your fingernails. It could just be a sign of ageing! Nails can be strengthened by taking biotin (vitamin B7) supplements, and by frequently applying moisturising cream rub the lotion into your fingernails and cuticles. Applying a nail hardener might also help protect and strengthen your nails.

Always keep fingernails dry and clean, this prevents bacteria from growing under your fingernails. Brittle nails can sometimes be caused by a fungal nail infection and this can be easily cleared up by taking a course of antifungal tablets.  However, nail abnormalities can tell a lot about your health. So if this simple care doesn’t improve your nails, and you haven’t injured or been biting them talk to your GP – especially if your nails have changed in colour, texture, shape or thickness. Flaky nails are most likely to be a sign of a fungal nail infection or injury, but can sometimes indicate a more serious underlying disease. Nail psoriasis and  lichen planus are skin conditions which can affect the nails, and either an underactive thyroid or overactive thyroid, which control hormone production, just might be the cause of your brittle, crumbly nails.

New year resolutions

Hello Diana, about this time every year I promise myself to make simple changes and to take better care of my health. What could my New Year Resolutions be? Molly Squires Edinburgh

Hello Molly, here are some easy ways to help you to better health in 2017.
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to help ward off colds and flu. “Juicing” the fruit and vegetables makes a pleasant, palatable alternative, ensuring a high intake of protective vitamins. Drink 6 glasses of water a day, water has a cleansing effect on your body.

Give yourself a break and give up alcohol for a month. Alcohol is fattening and disorders of the eyes, skin, joints, heart, hair, digestion and some cancers, are just a few health problems linked with alcohol abuse. Not only your liver will benefit, but the whole of you will perk up, physically and psychologically. Winter skin is exposed to wind, cold, UV radiation and central heating resulting in skin dehydration – time to replenish and pamper! Massage your body daily with a generous helping of moisturising skin cream, and exfoliate once a week with a body salt scrub
Keep active, even though it is cold outside take a brisk half-hour walk, 3 times a week and swim, cycle, jog, or garden whenever possible. Being active makes your body and complexion glow.

PS. Don’t forget your daily dozen “tummy crunches” if you want to achieve/ maintain that flat stomach.

a small lump the size of a pea in my right breast

naked woman wearing red cross bag

Photo by Engin Akyurt on

My partner recently discovered.   I am terrified it might be something awful and don’t want to see my doctor.   What do you think I should do? Jessica Brown – Liverpool

Jessica, with a breast lump, however small my advice is to go and see your GP as soon as you can. The chances are it’s nothing serious, but it might be something that needs attention and if diagnosed earlier, treatment can be more successful. I know first-hand the effects breast cancer can have on someone. I was 47 when I was diagnosed and my advice is that all women should get to know their breasts and to recognize if there are changes.  According to Breast Cancer Care the signs and symptoms of breast cancer can include:

  • a lump or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue
  • a change in size or shape of the breast
  • redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
  • a change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling (like orange peel)
  • discharge (liquid) that comes from the nipple without squeezing
  • your nipple becoming inverted (pulled in) or changing its position or shape
  • a swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
  • constant pain in your breast or your armpit


The older you get, the more important it is to be aware, as one in three women who are diagnosed are over 70.  Each year 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK – that’s one person every 10 minutes.