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Why age is no barrier to these Northern Ireland people keeping fit in their 70s



Role model: having just turned 70, Prince Charles still leads a very active lifestyle

Role model: having just turned 70, Prince Charles still leads a very active lifestyle


Carmel Hanna

Carmel Hanna

Bill Jeffrey

Bill Jeffrey

Pat Jennings

Pat Jennings

Getty Images

Role model: having just turned 70, Prince Charles still leads a very active lifestyle

Turning 70 can be, for many people, a time to slow down. But not the Prince of Wales. Just back from a tour of west Africa, he's kept busy thanks to royal duties and his ever-growing family.

With grandchildren at his feet, and houses to maintain, it seems he's a poster boy for living your best life at 70. So why not take inspiration from his lifestyle and try these ways to stay fit and healthy at 70 and beyond?

1. Get out in the garden

Charles is best known for his gardens at Highgrove - you can visit and take inspiration from his work (he is known to do some weeding when he's at home!)

Gardening is a many-faceted way to stay fit and active. It's physical, of course, strengthening muscles as you weed and prune, but it's also amazing for mental health. Speaking to Gardeners' World earlier this year, HRH revealed he even had a small vegetable plot behind Buckingham Palace when he was little. He's talked a lot about gardening, once telling Radio 4: "For me, it's the most marvellous, therapeutic business."

2. Paint a picture

And it's not just green fingers for Charles - he's a huge fan of watercolour painting and his works adorn the walls in the reception at Highgrove. He's an honorary member of the Royal Academy and the Royal Watercolour Society. Painting can bring stress relief, improve memory and build motor skills. You could even make some cash if your work is saleable.

3. Embrace physical activity

It's recommended that people aged 65 and over, who are considered 'generally fit', do two and a half hours moderate exercise a week. As well as gardening, you could try a brisk walk, or a game of football (the Queen is said to go in goal when the family plays at Sandringham) or ballroom dancing. After all, why just watch Strictly?

4. Try yoga

Not just for trendy instagrammers, yoga can really help strengthen muscles, which can help reduce risk of falls. According to the NHS, people often start yoga in their 70s. You don't need to be super-flexible or have special kit. Look for classes aimed at beginners or your age group if you're new and want to practice alongside like-minded people of a similar age. The Prince has dabbled in yoga - it's said he bonded with new daughter-in-law the Duchess of Sussex over the practice, too.

5. Set new goals and celebrate achievements

Charles recently collected a Lifetime Achievement Award from GQ magazine at its annual Men of the Year Awards. Proof that you never have to stop having goals when you're approaching a milestone 'older' birthday.

Never won an award or medal? Perhaps now's the time to seek out the opportunity to do so. Or, set some new challenges for yourself for the coming year and decade. For instance, you could plan a thank you speech for your 70th party, to make sure you honour those who have helped you live your best life so far.

6. Join a club

Studies have shown that socialising is one of the cornerstones of ageing well. And this isn't just about exercise clubs - joining a group where you can meet like-minded people and expand your horizons is essential.

You might find yourself suddenly on a coach trip somewhere you never imagined you'd go, or working as a team to raise money for charity. The Women's Institute is still going strong, and addresses lots of pertinent issues through its work. You could find a group through Age UK or the Royal Voluntary Service, too.

7. Travel the world

For many people, seeing the world is perceived to be a millennial's game - backpacking in your 20s, or on a gap year sabbatical from work. While he's lucky enough to be well-travelled thanks to his position, Charles is an example of how you don't have to stick to staycations once you hit 70, recently visiting west Africa.

It could be time to book that round-the-world trip or weekend break to a city you always wanted to see. Best of all, you can probably get senior discounts on attractions.

8. Laugh

It seems that the more time passes, the more Charles seems to have a smile on his face. Clearly, he's happy in life and enjoying time with his family. Laughter can reduce stress hormones and also boost antibodies.

It releases feel-good endorphins, too. Take that, winter flu! You could take it one step further and go see some comedy - or even take part if you're brave enough.

9. Volunteer

Prince Charles is patron of many charities, most notably The Prince's Trust which helps young people aged 11-30 who are struggling at school or unemployed. You don't have to set up your own charity, but volunteering can really give your body and mind a boost.

Think about something close to your heart - it could be you decide to help out at a local charity shop. The best bit about this is you're likely to make some like-minded friends, too.

Well-known Northern Ireland folk on the routines which help them to stay healthy

Former SDLP MLA for south Belfast and mother-of-four Carmel Hanna (72) says:

I'm a young 72, in my head. To be honest I probably didn't live healthily when I was working in politics. I was stressed and running around, much as Claire is now!

But I've been retired since 2010, due to cancer, but this is now on an even keel - that has to have a reasonable level of fitness.

I am a registered nurse and midwife, so I suppose I know the importance of a healthy diet. That's not to say that I don't treat myself and disregard my own advice once in a while. I go to a dance exercise class and a yoga class weekly and I definitely think it's much more fun to go with friends and have a coffee afterwards - it's also a great place to make friends and meet people.

I am one of these people who has to have a good walk every day regardless of the weather - even if it's bad I go for a walk round the block.

I love our parks in Belfast - I often walk in Ormeau Park or Musgrave Park and sometimes I would go down to Botanic Gardens.

I am naturally an optimistic and positive person but I appreciate not everybody feels like that. I love my life and I have a great life.

Former Northern Ireland goalkeeper and father-of-four Pat Jennings (73) says:

I am lucky. I am still involved at Spurs and I'm still doing a little bit of training with the academy, so some days I go in and do a few volleys and half-volleys with them.

I am also the ambassador for the grassroots programme that McDonalds and FAI deliver, so I would visit pitches around the country and join in a bit.

I play golf most weeks - probably a couple of times a week - and I walk the course. I don't use golf buggies.

I've no worries about diet - I'm the same weight as when I played, maybe a few pounds up.

Belfast literary agent and actor Bill Jeffrey (84) says:

I probably don't take enough exercise - I would be a slave to the car. I do have one of those apps on the phone that tells you how much you've walked and I would be very disappointed if I didn't clock up about 3km every day.

I would walk the streets but I don't have a regular path - I don't go to Botanic Park or Ormeau Park to walk. I eat well. I cook for myself and I listen to all the advice there is - fibre and protein, that sort of thing. I wouldn't eat red meat more than once a week and the rest of the time it would be white meat or semi-vegetarian. I'm quite fond of Chinese food but I don't do carry-outs.

Because I'm a literary agent I get invited to book launches and poetry slams and the main diet there is red wine and sausage rolls. 2019 is going to be a dry January.

I keep my weight down. I think I am probably very lucky in my genes. I've had two hip replacements and bowel cancer and have been left with a colostomy bag but despite that, I keep going.

I find that if you have something in the morning to get up and go out for, that is a major component in keeping young and healthy.

My daughter Karin rides shotgun on my shoulder and if she thinks I am not eating right she'd be on me like a plague of locusts.

Belfast Telegraph