Image by Lindsay Henwood

3 of the best anti-ageing strategies

Goldie Hawn was featured in The Times last weekend, and she looked AMAZING! 
I had to press my face closer to check I wasn’t imagining it: she really was a 73 year old woman with no sign of a wrinkle on her face. Or crepey skin on her neck.

But before we all Google cosmetic surgeons’ price lists, let’s at least start with trying to keep our bodies young… I see little point in wearing the mask of a younger me if I’ve got the posture of a pensioner.

With this in mind, I’ve been thinking about some of the best bodily advice I’ve been given by experts in the field.

1. Climb the stairs – it’s a top anti-ageing exercise.

Stair climbing isn’t the usual kind of anti-ageing tip you come across. It’s more likely to be recommended as a way of sneaking a bit of cardio into your day. But in fact, when researchers compared the effects of different activities on inflammatory processes in the body, stair climbing came out at the top. It’s supposed to be as effective as playing squash for releasing anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL10. This is a hormone that dampens down inflammation in the body – the kind of inflammation that builds up when we are sedentary and inactive.

Professor Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, explained to me that pro-inflammatory cytokines (such as IL6) are useful for speeding up our recovery after an injury or infection. But they can get out of control when we’re overweight or inactive and when this happens they can lead on to a raft of illnesses we associate with ageing – including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and even dementia.

So, for any excuse, or none at all, we should all go up and down the stairs as often as we can. Any staircase will do!

2. Lie down to improve your posture. 

Paradoxically my next top tip is to get on your back. For just 10 to 15 minutes a day, we should all be practising the semi-supine posture beloved of Alexander Teachers. Don’t add it onto your morning lie in, or think you can just go to bed early. This is an active and engaged posture that you should try to do at some point in the middle of your day. Its purpose is to realign your spine and help to correct poor posture.

Good posture is, of course, key to looking young. But hunching over our desks and looking down at our phones all day means that a lot of us are developing an old lady stance long before our time.

All you need to do is lie on the floor, with your head on a couple of paperback books wrapped in a soft towel. Keeping your head off the ground like this is important to maintain its natural position on top of your spine. (If you had your back against a wall, your head would be slightly forward of the wall – this is the posture you’re aiming to replicate.)

Raise your knees (to take pressure off your back), and place your feet firmly on the floor, at a distance from your bottom that puts your legs into a v-shape.

Keep your eyes open and your awareness in the room around you, rather than using this as an opportunity to drift off into a daydream.

This is a good neutral position in which to become aware of tension and allow yourself to release it. If you have the space, try spreading your arms out, hands facing upwards. It’s a great way to open the front of your chest, and especially useful if you’ve been hunched over a desk all day.

Alexander teachers recommend we all go semi-supine once a day. It’s a challenge if you have a fidgety mind, but it is a great way to look after your joints.

3. Discover AposTherapy

I was introduced to AposTherapy a couple of years ago after interviewing a woman who, as a result of the therapy, had been spared a knee replacement operation. As I write I am now wearing a pair of AposTherapy shoes, and when I look in the mirror I can see how, as well as relieving my oh-so-ageing knee pain, they instantly improve my posture.

AposTherapy involves having your gait analysed by a physiotherapist who then creates footwear that’s uniquely calibrated to give you optimal body alignment.

What actually happens is that you walk several times up and down a computer-linked mat. This assesses any difference in the length of your stride when stepping out with your left or right foot. Even what may seem to be a tiny disparity can signify an imbalance in the way you are using your body, and this imbalance can lead to joint problems and pain.

In my case there was enough of a difference to warrant treatment with what I call shoes, but which AposTherapy clinicians call a personally adjusted biochemechanical device. On the sole of this footwear – one at the front of each foot and one at the heel – the therapist fits Pertupods, convex pods that are then adjusted by height and position to release pressure from painful joints (in my case my left knee) and ‘introduce controlled micro-instability for muscle re-education’.

AposTherapy is now being rolled out by the NHS. It’s not widely available yet, but it will be a God-send when it is – sparing patients from knee operations, and saving the NHS money in the process. Find out more here.