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Investing In Yourself

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Public Health England’s latest health campaign centres on how to educate middle-aged people about the long term benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle when you are over 40. It’s One You campaign aims to show people how exercise and nutrition combined with cutting down on alcohol and cutting out cigarettes will increase your chances of leading an active and happy old age.

Just like any other investment, a bit of diligence now will pay a dividend in the future.

It is a good idea on two levels. It will inspire some people to aim for greater fulfilment in their later years and it will reduce the burden on the NHS of funding treatment for conditions caused by poor lifestyle choices.

It is a no-brainer.

The only difficulty is in actually getting people commit to buying into a new way of living.

We have made some progress since I worked on ITV’s Tonight programme and covered many of the stories on obesity, early-onset diabetes, poor nutrition and schools which failed to deliver on even basic, daily physical education. Some progress – but not that much.

Nothing we have done so far has cut obesity levels, stopped our descent into inactivity or even slowed the growth of the fast food/processed food industry.

This is an important campaign. Getting people to sign up will be hard.

There are three reasons for this.

Few seem to regard physical exercise as fun, the development of basic cooking skills is regarded as non-essential and very rarely do people take on board a wholesale look at instigating activity into every day life.

Alan Pascoe, the former Olympic Gold medallist, once said to me that people should diarise their physical activity sessions. A quick jog round the park, a power walk to work (even partially) or a swim at lunch time should be as essential as a business meeting, a dental appointment or attending school functions. Looking after your health should be at the top of your agenda. You manage your money; you manage your work and leisure so you should manage your health.

So here’s what I do

• Get out of bed early and stretch for 15 minutes.
• Run at least three times a week. It takes 30 minutes then ten for a shower and ten for make-up. That is 50 minutes.
• Yoga twice a week. One session on a Sunday morning to avoid interrupting the working week.
• Use a back-pack and wear comfortable boots so that I can walk between meetings.
• Wear a fit-bit (or other device) to ensure I keep the pace up
• Swim front crawl twice a week.
• Cook from scratch incorporating as many vegetables as possible. This is a challenge with my middle child, who regards fried bread, BBQ sauce (with or without meat) and gnocchi as his top three foods but we have made some progress.

None of the above is hard if you regard it as vital to your future. Believe me, a year ago I couldn’t even run for the bus and I regarded front crawl in the same light as climbing the Matterhorn. However, if you see dynamic activity as a critical part of each day, you will do it. If you find it fun, you are even more likely to ensure you adopt the right approach and if you have a target you are likely to try harder.

There are obstacles. There are injuries and – of course – there are the demands of raising a family and sustaining key relationships.

As my Mother’s Day card said, “Behind every great mother, is a family getting in the way.”

Still, it is all achievable and it would be such a shame – and a waste of money – to leave those new leather leggings languishing at the back of the closet.

Even more, it would be a shame to be older and wiser, but not fitter.