About a year ago I was not ageing well. I was technically obese, had just been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and felt sluggish most of the time. My only exercise was to take the dog for a walk around the block.
I only had myself to blame. Years of yo-yo dieting followed by prolonged periods of bingeing had taken their toll. I have tried on countless diets over the years. The detox starvation left me feeling faint and extremely tired. The high protein no carb diet gave me acid reflux and the high fibre diet just accentuated my mild IBS.
Realising that my 70thbirthday was two years away, I knew I needed to do something about my situation if I was to have a good chance of enjoying my later life. A fortune-teller once predicted that I was going to live to a ripe old age. I decided I was going to have a jolly good attempt at making this come true. At the very least I wanted to feel fitter and be more active.
In short, I was going to do the best I could to be able to say I was ageing well.
I dusted off the exercise bike sitting in the corner of our bedroom, began a more intensive walking programme (having a dog helps) and joined a Tai Chi class. It was hard at first; I almost fell off the bike after 10 minutes on my first attempt. Now I can manage half an hour and “cycle” eight miles easily. I do this twice a week alongside walking at least a mile three times a week and learning Tai Chi.
I don’t consider myself to be on a diet but on a healthy eating plan where- to quote the old song -“a little of what you fancy does you good”. It consists of balanced meals that are low in fat and sugar, high in protein and includes complex carbs such as wholemeal bread or oatmeal. I snack on fruit and allow the odd “treat” maybe a slice of home-made cake, a small chocolate bar, a small wedge of cheese or a glass of wine. I tend to be stricter during the week and allow myself the occasional – and I mean occasional treat day.
My journey is not yet complete – I still have more than 20lbs to lose before I can say I am comfortably within the healthy weight range for my height. But have already lost 30lbs dramatically improved my diabetes and feel better than I did in my fifties.
Getting and staying fit is key to positive ageing. Even if you have you have had health issues in the past, you can still take steps to improve your fitness levels. Not only does regular exercise improve balance, there is some evidence to suggest it promotes greater body strength, which in turn reduces your chances of a hip fracture if you do slip or trip.
I have many friends who say life is too short to spend time exercising. They are right. If you don’t take even some small steps to improve your fitness, your life may well be short.
Of course there are always the exceptions to the rule. Seemingly fit people who have a heart attack mid marathon or who contact life-threatening diseases despite their lifestyle. Of there may be the odd centurion who has lived on chips and whisky all their life. But for the most part getting fit and active will help you age better.
Of course I started on my fitness journey from an easily reversible point. If you have joint problems or have had a serious illness or you are recovering from a fall you may have bigger hurdles to overcome. But your GP may know of programmes that can help such as the Action for Elders, Balanced Lives Programme. https://www.actionforelders.org.uk
Follow me on this blog as I continue my ageing well journey.