Photo of Trica Cusden lifting weights

I have to confess that I am a little bit in love with Dr. Michael Mosley. However, it’s his brain that I love rather than feeling any particular desire for the rest of his anatomy. I love the way that he thinks about health and well-being and how he presents his ideas in tasty bite-sized morsels, all of which are backed by credible scientific evidence. I would even go so far as to claim that, alongside the weekly sessions I have with Lindsay Burrows* and my pink Opti exercise bike, Mosley has had the greatest impact on the things that I do every day to sustain my ageing body.


Staying fit and healthy has to be the biggest challenge of our advancing years and that goal is often accompanied by lots of finger-wagging admonitions.


Don’t drink alcohol, don’t be sedentary, don’t eat highly refined and processed foods, avoid red meat and don’t get stressed. I’d bet that most of you reading this will know all the aspects of modern life that are most likely to kill you, but that doesn’t make it any easier to choose the healthier alternatives. Which is where Dr Mosley comes in with his wonderful series ‘Just One Thing’. The idea is simple and his suggestions are neither costly, faddish or whacky. They are all grounded in research which shows that they really work if you actually incorporate the suggestions into your everyday life.


The seventh series of ‘Just One Thing’ has recently aired and all of them are available to listen to on BBC Sounds, however, to save you the trouble I will share the latest ten suggestions with you below. Some you may already be doing (good for you!), but there will be others that may help you to make better decisions and choices. If these end up being part of your daily routine, then you are pretty much guaranteed to reap the benefits.


Get Gardening.  The obvious benefit is from increased physical activity and being outside in nature. This can boost your mental well-being by reducing stress and anxiety. So far, so obvious. What you may not realise is that gardening exposes you to airborne bacteria in the soil which can positively affect your gut-biome. The research on this was carried out between the peak gardening season of April to August. Gardeners were shown to have more fibre and more gut bacteria than non-gardeners. NOT from eating soil (!) but from breathing it in.


Get Skipping or Hopping. This is about building muscle power rather than strength. To get up from a chair you need sufficient muscle power which, unfortunately, declines at a faster rate than muscle strength. The easiest way to increase muscle power is to do 5 sets of 10 hops, (alternating legs) with a 15 second rest between each set. Aim to do this 3 times a week. In just 12 weeks you should see a significant improvement in mobility because you will have increased the coordination between your muscles and your central nervous system. The risk of injury is low especially if you start slowly and gradually build it up. If you can still skip - then use a rope and get the benefits that way.


Snack Smartly. A snack is any food you eat between breakfast, lunch and your evening meal and after 9 pm. And we are a nation of snackers with 25% of calories coming from the foods that people consume between main meals. And, invariably, these calories come from sugary, starchy and ultra-processed foods like crisps, biscuits, cake and chocolate bars. The solution is to choose more nutritious alternatives. Cheese or nuts, berries (mixed with) full-fat yoghurt or kefir, vegetable crudites with hummus, all are full of good fats and protein and will help you to feel more full and for longer. The impact of this will be felt on your waistline and will also lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.


Track Your Exercise. We all know the guidelines: 150 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, 10,000 steps a day and never sit for longer than an hour at a time without moving around for at least 5 minutes. Knowing however isn’t necessarily doing. An exercise tracker via a device or an app on your phone can make all the difference. Research shows that people who set goals for movement and then receive feedback via a tracker are more likely to keep going with their regime. The recommendation is to start by creating a baseline of current levels of activity and then gradually add to it in terms of time and vigour. I do this with my OPti exercise bike every week and set timers to move after every hour when I am writing this blog.


Get an Early Night. Early to bed, early to rise makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy and wise. Maybe there is some truth in this. If, like me, you are rarely in bed before midnight then what would the benefits be of going to bed at 11 pm instead? Early morning light has been shown to be beneficial, but this is really about ensuring that you get enough good quality, deep sleep, vital in clearing and refreshing the brain. I no longer have to get up early, so my late nights are followed by late waking and rising which seems to suit me well. Advice for better sleep is to keep to sleep routines, even at weekends, to restrict light from devices before bed and to have calming rituals like reading and listening to soothing music.


Eat Whole Grains. This is about swapping what you might normally choose for an alternative which supplies more nutrients. So, you choose to eat wholewheat pasta, wholemeal bread, whole oats and brown rice instead of their more processed and refined alternatives. Whole grains are made up of three parts: the germ or core, the bran or outer shell and the starchy endosperm. The two parts which are packed with fibre, antioxidants and polyphenols, the germ and the bran, are removed during the refining process. Eating whole grains can reduce your risk of heart disease, help you to lose visceral belly fat and also reduce inflammation in the body.

The fibre in whole grains feeds the microbiome in the gut and slows down the rate at which we absorb sugar and glucose. And surprisingly popcorn (not slathered in butter or sugar) is a healthy whole grain snack.


Do a Plank. A plank is a position in which you support your whole body in a straight line on your toes and lower arms. It is an isometric exercise which requires a strong core and which strengthens hard-to-reach muscles in your stomach and back. The focus is to hold the position as long as you can whilst aiming to build up to 30 seconds. Do this 4 times with a 2 minute rest in between and repeat the exercise three times a week. Obviously, if you haven’t done this before, start slowly and gradually extend the time. This can lower your blood pressure more effectively than cardio-vascular exercise in just 4 weeks. It can also help you to avoid injuries from falling and alleviate back pain.


Drink Green Tea. This is beneficial for both heart health and mood. Green tea has high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, so around three cups a day will help you to burn fat and also impacts on amyloid proteins which form harmful plaques in your bloodstream. These proteins are one of the risk factors for developing dementia. It can also help with cognitive brain function thanks to the flavonoids and polyphenols which are both important for brain function.  The best way to drink it is to steep loose leaves in boiling water for around 3 minutes before drinking. And you can reuse the leaves for your next cuppa to reduce waste and save money.


Take Vitamin D. Best sources of vitamin D naturally come from eating oily fish and going outside in the sunshine. But during the winter up to 50% of adults show some vitamin D deficiency and the level increases the older we become. Vitamin D is good for our bones and is also important for our immune system because it activates the T cells which fight infections like the common cold. New research shows that Vitamin D plays an important role in helping to clear amyloid plaques from the brain (see above). This means that it can offer a protective effect from developing dementia. Recommended daily dose is in supplement form of 10 mcgs/400 i.e. units. 


Be Kind. Just being a nicer, kinder person benefits not only the person on the receiving end, but also the one doing the act of kindness. Research shows that this can reduce anxiety and lift mood and depression. Why and how? Two studies on people aged between 25-76 showed that those who gave time to altruistic acts via participation in charitable organisations or volunteering, had measurably lower harmful levels of inflammation in their bodies than those who weren’t active in this way. The suggestion is to find small ways to be kind to others around you - neighbours, work colleagues or your friends and family. That way everyone wins!


This weekend over 40,000 people will complete the London marathon. A friend’s daughter has entered and she was telling me how meticulously she has prepared for the challenge, but also how confident that she is about her chances not only of finishing, but of doing so in some style. 


I expect you know where I am going with this! I see Dr Mosley as my trainer for the marathon that is old age with his perfectly doable ‘one step at a time’ approach. A few sensible choices every day can make all the difference and I, for one, am up for the challenge.


Just One Thing on BBC Sounds. All episodes available here:

Tricia and Lindsay’s Exercise Routines:


Tricia x

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