Lesley Joseph health: Star says ‘secret of ageing’ is both ‘mental and physical’ exercise

Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph sing in behind-the-scenes clip

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Most recently, it was announced that Joseph will take to the stage in the 2022 UK and Ireland tour of Sister Act The Musical, which starts in Dublin in September. Many have marvelled at the ability of Joseph considering her age, and in 2019, during an interview, the star of both stage and screen had some much anticipated answers on how she stays healthy. At the time of the interview, Joseph was three years younger at 73, but even then remained firm in her answers, saying that she will “work till [she] drops”, with retiring not being an option.

She went on to say: “Just look at my face. I’ve always played character parts, so ageing has never been a problem for me.

“I was lucky never to have been the juvenile lead. The secret of ageing carefully and properly is exercise, both mental and physical.

“I’m always having to learn lines, which keeps my brain agile. And I walk everywhere. In London I’ll get off the Tube early and walk a couple of stops.”

Relying heavily on exercise, Joseph revealed that ageing well seems to be in her genes, as her mother Vicki lived until the grand age of 104.

“My mother, Vicki, was an inspiration,” Joseph explained. “She died just short of 104. She gave up badminton at 90, played tennis beyond that and was line dancing until 96. She was an amazing woman.”

Her fitness and self-confidence has seamlessly translated on stage, as back in 2019, Joseph was stripping regularly on stage as she performed in Calendar Girls.

And this is not the only time the star has marvelled in her health and ability as she grows older, as back in 2016, when taking part in Strictly Come Dancing, she revealed that she has “more energy than a lot of 45 year olds”, despite being the oldest contestant to take part in the dancing series.

At the time, Joseph said: “I didn’t want to be the joke. Often they have someone who can’t move for whatever reason, but I can move and I have got rhythm.

“I want people to think ‘Oh my God, I didn’t realise she could do that.’ Already my odds have gone down from 100:1 to 28:1. I’m fit, fine and raring to go.

“It’s quite hardcore. You jump with your legs out, you flop back across the floor,” she exclaimed.

“But it’s just glorious. I have more energy than a lot of 45 year olds. It’s prodigious, I’m always saying to Anton [Du Beke]: ‘Can we do it again?’ He says, ‘My God, you never stop’.”

In an issue of the BioMed Research International back in 2018, physical activity and lifestyle choices were measured to see what effect they had on healthy and long life for older people. The article explained that physical activity (PA) is a “protective factor for noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer. As well as improved mental health”.

This suggests that older individuals can contribute to maintaining their quality of life, health, and physical function if they participate regularly in physical activity.

These conclusions have been supported by health bodies across the globe, with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasising that regular physical activity is one of the most important things individuals can do for their health in older age. As well as delaying any health problems, it also acts to help muscles grow stronger and allows individuals to remain independent.

Therefore, adults aged 65 and older should aim to do:

  • At least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, five days a week) of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking. Or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running.
  • At least two days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.
  • Activities to improve balance such as standing on one foot about three days a week.

Statistics show that balance training, in particular, has been shown to reduce falls by 21 percent, with a greater effect of exercise programmes that include challenging balance activities for more than three hours a week.

It is not just physical activity that can help individuals to age better. Age UK, a leading UK-based charity explains that exercising the brain through stimulating activities like puzzles, games and hobbies can reduce or delay cognitive ageing.

Studies of cognitive ageing often get people in older age to complete various tests of their thinking skills and provide details about the activities they regularly take part in. Almost all of those studies find that the people who do more mentally stimulating activities have better thinking skills in older age.

One of the biggest studies had participants learning either digital photography or quilting, in order to determine which type of brain training programme or activity is best.

Although still in need of more research, the results suggested that the people in these “productive engagement” groups experienced benefits in terms of their memory performance.

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