There's no getting around the importance of age when it comes to Covid-19. But as we learn more about the virus, some in the medical world think we should also consider one's 'Covid age' – how various factors like age, weight, kidney function and diabetes coalesce to determine your vulnerability to the virus. Being fit and healthy puts you in a better position to combat Covid-19.
Here, we hear from three people in their 70s who not only kept themselves active during lockdown, but got creative in the process.
‘I’m considering the next London marathon’
Norman Norrington, 78
I’ve always kept myself fairly active by going to the gym, and taking long walks.
But, at my age, I’ve never been more aware of how important it is to stay healthy. When lockdown first happened, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my exercise regime. Instead of resigning myself to the sofa to watch television, I decided to get creative. I bought myself some small weights so I can do my whole exercise routine from the comfort of my sitting room. I also do a couple of workouts that I found on YouTube.
I’m trying to change my lifestyle, and eat a bit healthier, too. I used to love cream cakes, and lots of meat, but now I allow myself the occasional treat on what I call “chocolate Friday”. In total, I do two 30 minute workouts a day, and I feel fitter than ever.
When you’re feeling trapped by restrictions, you want to escape – and exercise is a great way of doing that. Coronavirus also made me much more aware of my health, and the importance of maintaining a healthy weight.
Two months ago, I even did a skydive for singer Casey Sana's music video – something I thought I would never do, let alone at my age. It was an unbelievable feeling; I was falling at 120 miles an hour until the parachute opened, and my cheeks were flapping in the wind.
I’ve also started running three miles around my local park. I love it, because you don’t need anything else except a pair of running shoes and it works wonders for your mental health. I’m even considering signing up for the next London Marathon.
Now I’m almost 80, I want to prove to myself that I’m not over that hill yet and I can still do amazing things.
‘I joined Joe Wicks online every day’
Carole Railton, 70
Until things locked down in March, I exercised at the gym twice a week with a personal trainer and, because I don’t have a car (I live in central London), I walked everywhere.
Then the world shut down. It was a frightening and deeply confusing time. I assumed lockdown would last only a few weeks, and abandoned most exercise except for the occasional walk to the shops. But I soon realised it would be a longer haul than I imagined, and so I opened my laptop and tried out Joe Wicks’s home fitness classes. I’d never taken part in anything like that before, but I was quickly sold. He’s such a nice personality, and I loved his laid-back style (he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and doesn’t seem to have any ego). Soon I was joining him online every weekday – it was the most frequent exercise I’d done for years.
Now, I’ve returned to my twice-weekly gym sessions, as well as my long walks along the south coast. I’m glad to be back: there’s something about exercising in-person with a trainer that can’t quite be replicated at home. But I would also like to keep up my home fitness habit. Just this week, I learnt that Joe Wicks has an online class especially for seniors – an offer I plan to accept.
‘Fear of Covid put my health into perspective’
Derek Clark, 72
Lockdown was the push I needed to get fit. I exercised regularly as a young man, when I was in the army, and later became a weightlifter. But in my senior years I have struggled with my weight. I was diagnosed in my 50s with Type 2 diabetes, and had to have a stomach bypass operation. Now I’m retired and try to see a personal trainer - Adam Coley from At Home Fitness - at my house every week.
But it wasn’t until lockdown that things really turned a corner. I’ve always been wary of cycling on busy roads – it just never felt safe. But with offices and shops shut, in late March and April the roads near my house in Wolverhampton became almost deserted. I started to cycle two or three times a week, heading out of the city and into the pretty countryside of south Staffordshire. On the average two-hour journey I can cover 26 miles, burning off 1,600 calories, according to my smartwatch. For our 50th wedding anniversary this year, my wife even bought me a new Moulton TSR bicycle.
Doctors have told me for years that I need to lose weight, but the fear of Covid definitely put things into perspective – especially after my 81 year-old brother-in-law, who was overweight, died after contracting the virus in the spring.
Now the roads are much busier, filled with parents on the school run. But I haven’t been deterred, and I still take out my bicycle regularly.
As told to Luke Mintz and Alice Hall
Read more: What’s your ‘Covid age’?