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Me and my health: Lady Mary Peters on her lifestyle


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New campaign: Lady Mary Peters

New campaign: Lady Mary Peters

Lady Mary (centre) after winning gold at the Munich Olympic Games

Lady Mary (centre) after winning gold at the Munich Olympic Games

Keeping fit: Mary Peters in her exercise video

Keeping fit: Mary Peters in her exercise video

New campaign: Lady Mary Peters

The 81-year-old Olympic gold medallist has recorded a series of exercise videos called Move with Mary to help older people keep moving at home, as part of her role as an Age NI ambassador. She was born near Liverpool, came to Northern Ireland at the age of 11 and now lives in Belfast. Previous occupations have included teaching and running a health club - and she also raises money for her own charity, the Mary Peters Trust.

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

A: I walk most days for between half an hour and an hour. The pace is usually quite brisk but I ruptured my Achilles tendon last summer, so it's not as brisk as it used to be. As we get older, we need regular exercise more than ever to keep our muscles strong and maintain our balance. When Age NI approached me with the idea of doing exercise videos to keep older people active during lockdown, I thought it was a brilliant idea. I love the idea that there's a community of people out there doing it in their own homes!

Q: What is the worst illness you've had?

A: In 2018 I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve. I was off my feet on strict rest for one month. I came back to life in the second month, and I returned to near normal health in the third month. Before the surgery, I was getting out of breath walking, so it was such a relief not to feel tired so quickly. It was a great success.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I think it's very healthy. I was a home economics teacher in a previous life, so I mostly follow healthy eating advice. I have plenty of veg every day, I eat a lot of home-made soup and I mostly cook from fresh ingredients.

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Lady Mary (centre) after winning gold at the Munich Olympic Games

Lady Mary (centre) after winning gold at the Munich Olympic Games

Lady Mary (centre) after winning gold at the Munich Olympic Games

Q: Any bad habits?

A: Not really, but I have to admit that I nearly got addicted to wine gums at one stage! I was complaining that my nails weren't in great condition and a friend told me wine gums would strengthen them. I had tried all the creams and potions so I gave it a go, but unfortunately I had to put a stop to them - they were addictive. I was never quite sure if they had worked on my nails or not!

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

A: I smoked a very long time ago but I haven't done for many decades. I do enjoy a glass of wine or a gin and tonic, and to really indulge I have a brandy and lemonade. I believe if you behave yourself with a good diet and regular exercise, a drink is okay. During this lockdown period, it's important to keep an eye on it and not to make alcohol a regular feature.

Q: Do you take any supplements?

A: I take lyprinol, which is an anti-inflammatory for soothing arthritic joints - it's an Omega 3 oil taken from a shellfish: the green-lip mussel.

I also take a daily multivitamin with iron and have done since the age of 16.

As we get older, bone health is very important. When I opened a scanner for osteoporosis at Musgrave Park Hospital, they scanned me and the doctors told me my bone strength was off the chart - it was too high for the scanner to even take a reading! I count myself incredibly lucky as I know a lot of people who have osteoporosis. A good diet with lots of milk and yoghurt, and a calcium and vitamin D supplement are good for this.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: I enjoy spending time outdoors gardening, and indoors sewing and knitting. I'm a very social person, so this has been one of the biggest challenges of lockdown. The phone is handy, and I've learned to Zoom and Skype but it has been more difficult. None of it is the same as hugging a friend!

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Keeping fit: Mary Peters in her exercise video

Keeping fit: Mary Peters in her exercise video

Keeping fit: Mary Peters in her exercise video

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: I mostly get eight hours a night - I feel I need it.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: I'm already there: it's not as bad as it sounds and it's only a number. The key is keeping active, staying in touch with people and keeping going with life: there's also a lot of joy in seeing the next generation doing so well.

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

A: Green vegetables. At a recent trip to the opticians, they told me green veg are the most important for your eyes. I must admit I don't particularly enjoy kale and spinach but I make them into a smoothie with something more tasty.

My final go-to is the advice that a smile is like an Irish Mile - it goes a very long way and it makes others return the smile.

Lady Mary Peters has recorded a set of five exercise videos with Age NI called Move with Mary, to keep older people moving at home. Visit ageni.org/movewithmary or follow on Facebook (Age NI), Twitter (@Age_NI) and Youtube (Age NI TV)

Belfast Telegraph