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Me and my health: Emma Little Pengelly on her lifestyle

By Kerry McKittrick

Published 05/04/2016

Keen runner: canvassing helps Emma keep fit
Keen runner: canvassing helps Emma keep fit
Stepping up: Emma likes to run outdoors whenever she can

The 36-year-old is a DUP MLA and junior minister. She lives in Belfast with her husband, senior civil servant Richard Pengelly. A barrister and former special advisor to then First Minister Peter Robinson, she was co-opted to an Assembly seat in East Belfast in 2015 - a seat she will defend in next month's elections.

Q: Do you take regular exercise - and if so what?

A: I do. Before I became an MLA I would go to the gym regularly, about three or four times a week. I would have done about 30 minutes of cardio and then 15 or 20 minutes of light weights or floor exercises.

I run a bit, too - just 3k or 5k distances. It's been harder to find the time since I became an MLA but I have the Map My Run app on my phone that helps me keep track of the distance I cover around my house.

I've been doing a lot of canvassing since January so I've been doing walking, or the team and I will put our trainers on and we'll jog around the houses delivering newsletters. It's almost like interval training because you stop and start.

Q: What's been your worst illness?

A: I've been very fortunate in that I've not been particularly unwell.

I've had childhood illnesses like the flu and chickenpox, but the worst injury I've had was breaking my big toe.

I slipped on some spilt orange juice in my living room and bashed the toe against the leg of the sofa.

For me the worst thing was I couldn't wear heels or run for six to eight weeks and it was around March time - the time of year when you want to start getting out of the house again.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I think it's fairly healthy. I try to eat healthy lunches and dinners during the week that feature lots of vegetables or low carbs - they're usually around the 300 calories mark.

Then on Friday we might have some nice chilli with cheese and tacos and on Saturday we'll go for a takeaway like Chinese or Indian. I try to keep a balance so I can treat myself sometimes.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: Nibbling on chocolate or cheese whenever I pass the fridge. I generally try to be quite good but then you don't necessarily count all of those calories such as the M&Ms you grab as you pass the fridge.

Q: Do you drink or smoke and if so how much?

A: I try to be as healthy as possible and stay away from bad habits.

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: If I'm feeling a little run down I might take a couple of vitamin C tablets or some Berocca. Generally speaking I try and get vitamins and minerals from my diet instead of taking supplements.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: I like a nice meal out or even just the chance to cook a nice meal at home with my husband. I like relaxing by watching TV, listening to music or reading a book.

I'm so busy these days that a lot of my free time now revolves around spending time with my husband.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: It can be variable and it depends on how much is going on in my life. Sometimes I can have all of the things I need to do running through my head a little bit, which can make it difficult to get over. So it can depend on how busy I am.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: I'm in my mid-30s now and I don't feel hugely different than I did when I was 18.

Someone once said to me that growing old is the biggest privilege that we can have and I think we can overlook that when we worry about grey hairs and wrinkles.

I think because I run I don't notice any aches and pains at this point but I'm sure it will kick in.

There are a few more grey hairs than there used to be.

Q: What is your go to product or habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: Probably being busy - I don't have the time to sit and watch TV and find myself actually running from one appointment to the next.

I find the busier I am, the better I feel physically so it doesn't take as much out of me.

Belfast Telegraph

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