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That made me look around the changing room at the health club I frequent. Yes there are the enthusiasts in their teens to forties, building muscles as fast as they can go, but there are also a large number of those who are clearly there past their retirement date.

I’m told there are two dangerous extremes: stopping doing any exercise when you retire from a manual job, and doing too much exercise when you’re not used to it. So, as it seems with most things, aim for the middle path. Personally I’m of the opinion that a stress free mind goes a long way towards good health. I’ve watched a young man in the gym, probably in his mid thirties, and he is seriously driven! Whatever he is doing, he’s pushing the limits; at least that’s what his face is showing!  What’s driving him I wonder? No, enjoy the fitness thing; don’t make a meal of it. Do what comes naturally and if nothing does, chose something and gradually work on it.

If you don’t walk much, start on it and gradually build it up. Swimming is good for you as well, but don’t thrash at it; leave that to those youngsters who have something to prove. Over the years I’ve found gardening one of the most healthy pastimes and I’m convinced it is one of the most therapeutic; peace-making is not in it!

If there’s something wrong with you then you talk to your GP first and let them suggest your level of activity. I reckon ‘in moderation’ and ‘regularly’ are the key words for those of us approaching or past retirement age. Have a healthy week.

Of course talking about ‘general fitness’ isn’t just about physical activity, it’s all about eating right food, having a good sleep pattern and other odds and ends. I’m not a nutritionist so I don’t want to go giving advice on what to eat and what not to eat. I think that whole area is a minefield. People used to eat terrible foods and yet stay remarkably healthy; others ate ‘good’ food and died in their forties; there seem to be exceptions to every rule. Not only that, there seem to be so many different diets, all claiming to ‘the One’, that the average Jo or Josephine like you or me, is left totally confused. I have watched over the years and I’m afraid the ‘food people’ aren’t high in my estimation. What was condemned several years ago as a terribly unhealthy food, is now paraded as a saviour for something or other. Conversely that which was heralded as an essential a year ago now often has big question marks over it!

If food is a contentious area, sleep seems equally so. I used to think it was all neatly buttoned up. I came across articles about tests on people in the Antarctic winter that showed that on average each one of us requires almost exactly eight hours of sleep a day. But then came more that said when you get older you need less sleep. Teenagers need more, stressed mums will be pleased to know! But now the other day I saw yet another article that said we still all need about eight hours but the different types of sleep vary with age. Where have I got to with sleep?  It’s no longer a big issue. If, on rare occasions, I sleep over eight hours, no problem. If I sleep somewhere between six and a half and seven, as I usually do, no problem.

The problem, I have concluded, is not how long you sleep but what you feel like in the daytime. If you snore loudly and then hold your breath a long time while asleep, then fall asleep at odd times in the day (beware at the wheel of a car), you possibly suffer from sleep apnoea and your doctor will tell you of its causes, dangers and remedies (Check out our health pages). But beyond that find me a piece of sleep advice on the Internet and I’ll find you a conflicting view. Stress and worries obviously can cause bad sleeping but then so can so much else. As we said, the big issue, is how it leaves you feeling in the daytime. If you are one of those who takes a trip to the toilet two or three times a night, not a problem as long as you can get back to sleep quickly. I spotted the following on one of our ‘Tapestry’ pages you may find interesting for sleeping through the Winter, but if you do all these and they don’t work for you, don’t let it worry you:

- Wear night clothes such as pyjamas or a large T-shirt to keep you warm.  Natural fibres such as wool, cotton or silk will keep you warmer than synthetic materials.
- Have a warm bath just before you go to bed.  This will gently warm and relax you to help you feel sleepy.
- Have a warming, milky drink.
- Try to take some exercise which will get the circulation going to help keep the body warm – but don’t do vigorous exercise too close to bed time as you may feel too invigorated to sleep.
- Keep the bedroom warm, but not too hot, and free from draughts.
- Look for a mattress which has a “warm” side for use during the winter.  A soft sleeping surface is a better insulator than a flat one. Use a fleecy under blanket to retain the heat.
- Choose a duvet with a high tog rating or use several layers of bedding rather than one single layer.  Layers will trap warm air and are easily removed if you get too hot.                                                                                                  
- A hot water bottle is an ideal way to keep warm once in bed.  Make sure it has a cover on it to avoid scalding and also so that it won’t feel cold in the middle of the night.                                                         
- Electric blankets are ideal.  Under blankets will warm the bed up before you retire for the night, while over blankets maintain a constant temperature throughout the night.       
- Don’t make your partner suffer! Reach for the socks and gloves if you get cold feet and hands.          
- Waking up is hard to do... especially when it’s still dark. You could try a light alarm clock that brightens gradually to simulate daylight.

Finally, if you have trouble sleeping, just print out this article and read it to yourself in bed!

Quote: “Adopt flexible bedtimes, and don’t go to bed until you are tired. Make sure that your mattress is comfortable and the bedroom dark and well ventilated”
(Source: Things to do now that you’re 60)
3. On General Fitness

A little while ago I happened to notice an advertisement for Yakult. The picture in the advert was of a man, obviously ageing and his stomach was saying to him, “You may have retired but….” and the point of the advert then followed.

What was interesting about this man was that he was in swimming shorts and clearly standing next to a public swimming pool. The implication was obvious: sixty-five year olds are still seeking to remain fit and healthy.