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Dame Mary Peters shares how she maintains a healthy lifestyle

By Helen Carson

The 76-year-old won a gold medal in the pentathlon at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and two pentathlon gold medals at the Commonwealth Games between 1958 and 1974 as well as gold and silver for the shot put. She lives in Lisburn and heads up the Mary Peters Trust charity which raises money to fund promising young athletes from Northern Ireland.

Q: Do you take regular exercise - if so how often?

A: I walk up to three miles most mornings. I usually spend up to an hour walking with a good friend of mine to any scenic rural areas near Lisburn. Exercise should be something you enjoy. You do feel better afterwards, as it actually sets you up for the day.

Q: What's the worst illness you have had?

A: Shingles. I was ill with shingles in 2011 - I had been invited to Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding and I definitely wasn't going to miss that. I really, really suffered with shingles and was ill for about three months, I had no energy and was bedridden a lot of time - it is a really debilitating illness. I was told it is brought on by stress, though, I didn't feel stressed in any way at the time. As a trustee of the Mary Peters Trust I was working a lot before it turned into full blown shingles. I remember feeling very, very tired all the time - I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: It's reasonably healthy. I was a domestic science teacher many years ago, so I know about good nutrition, and of course, as an athlete, I have always been aware of what to eat to maximise my health. I never skip breakfast which is usually freshly squeezed orange or banana and toast, occasionally muesli and a cup of coffee.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: No. I don't have a sweet tooth as I was born in the war years and the only person who got sugar in our house was my father because it was rationed. I never developed a taste for sweet things. I tend to make my own meals, such as salads and homemade lentil soup as I enjoy cooking just for myself. I am planning to take a cookery class in the New Year so I can prepare meals for my visitors. I have been so busy working in recent years as the Lord Lieutenant of the City of Belfast, so I was rarely at home and haven't had the time to entertain friends at home, but I would like to get my confidence back.

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

A: I don't smoke and my drink of choice is a gin and tonic. I also like wine - white in the summer and red in the winter. After a meal I really enjoy a brandy and ginger - but it's all about moderation.

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: I take glucosamine with chondroitin for my knees, as I put them through a lot of trauma in my athletic days. I also take multi vitamins with iron - I have always taken supplements, especially when I was doing athletics as I was putting my body through a lot of extra work, so I was encouraged to take them. In doing so I am very lucky to wake up most mornings feeling great.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: Walking and I enjoy patchwork quilt-making. I don't have a lot of time because I am always busy.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: I sleep very well and I usually like eight hours as I feel better after a good night's sleep.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

No, I'm old anyway - I'm 76 and I don't worry about getting any older. I've had a wonderful life and as long as I wake up feeling healthy I will keep on going as long as I can.

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

A: All of the above; the habits that are good in the first place - walking, getting a good night's sleep, these are the basics of a healthy lifestyle. I called a friend once and asked her if she wanted to go out for a walk and she said 'no, it's raining'. I responded 'it rains a lot'. I felt so sorry for her as she couldn't face the rain - life is for living everyday. You have to get on with it.

  • The Mary Peters Trust is a charity which raises money to fund athletic opportunities for young people in Northern Ireland. Visit

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