Julie Robinson, founder and CEO of Move it or Lose it, was finally able to host the Healthy Ageing Conference – and celebrate 10 years of her ground-breaking initiative – after a two-year delay due to Covid.
It was most certainly worth the wait!
The thinking behind Move it or Lose it is clear from its name: the importance of staying active to prevent early onset ageing and the infirmities and illnesses which accompany it. Julie’s passion and commitment shone through as she explained her journey from school PE teacher to a national leader and health icon. It’s clear to see how she inspires and guides her specially-trained Move it or Lose it instructors who deliver activity sessions to those in the community who are elderly, approaching older age and/or living with osteoporosis.
Many of these instructors were in the audience at the Edgbaston Conference Centre to listen, learn from and be inspired by the eminent speakers Julie had assembled. All gave their slant on ageing and how health is inextricably linked to exercise, diet and our mindset.
Impressive line up
The line-up of speakers was impressive, each spoke with great personal interest and clear concern, making their deliveries both engaging and inspiring.
‘Some is good; more is better,’ Dr Sally Fenton told us, stressing the importance of effective interventions needed to motivate people. She highlighted how a sense of control and enjoyment are important in giving people autonomy, encapsulated in her message, ‘Give a Voice and a Choice.’
Professor Janice Thompson looked at the shocking rise in diabetes in the UK. By 2025, more than 5 million people will suffer from either Type 1 or, more commonly, Type 2 diabetes. For a great many this disease is avoidable. She stressed that “The synergy between foods and physical activity is optimal to manage weight and diabetes.” So we must combine a healthy diet with exercise and activity to avoid or reverse this disease. This was Professor Thompson’s final presentation before retirement; her conviction that there needs to be change in attitude and in business practice was very clear for all to hear.
‘Drop a decade’
‘We should aim to be as we were ten years previously.’ Professor Sir Muir Gray stressed the importance of doing more, not less, as we age. He likened 2022 as the ‘year of reconditioning’ asking the audience to consider it to be The Repair Shop for people’s bodies – an analogy which was met with laughter and much nodding. Professor Gray’s talk was laced with humour, helping the audience engage with his calls to action and firm belief that ‘whatever your age, you can close the fitness gap’. Muir believes that exercise is the ‘miracle cure’ and stressed that we should move MORE, not less, as we age.
Maggy Piggot CBE gave a very clear message: ‘You don’t stop dancing because you get old, you get old because you stop dancing.’ She was very firm in showing the ageism which is all around us in the media which would have us all believe that getting old means decline, decrepitude and despair. Not so! Hers was a call to create a positive ageing space and she shared her eight ingredients to living better for longer: Move; Eat Right; Have Purpose; Connect; Grow; Be Grateful; Give; Be Positive. Maggy’s 2019 book, How to Age Joyfully, written when she was 68 years young, looks to be a marvellous tonic for active and happy ageing.
That covid had delayed this conference for two years wasn’t enough; it chose for Professor Janet Lord to test positive and be unable to be there in person. However, the wizardry that is Zoom allowed Professor Lord to deliver her message loud and clear. Not a little ironically, that message was on the devastating effect of Long Covid. Sufferers who had severe symptoms were shown to have a biological age 13.8 years in advance of their chronological age! Quite the wake-up call to look at active ageing options. She shared that up to 1KG of muscle per week can be lost in bed rest and, once people felt well enough post-Covid, getting back into exercise was key: she recognised this can be hard for some and advocated ‘a little and often’ to help.
To close the speakers, Allan Walmsley spoke passionately about the role u3a can play in the lives of those who are retired. Previously known as the University of the Third Age, u3a has groups across the UK which offer activities, clubs, trips and discussions for their members. Keeping bodies and minds engaged and socially connected to others, u3a nicely dovetails with the other speakers’ advice.
bonebalance™ was one of three proud sponsors, alongside MyBones and EMDUK, the national governing body for group exercise. We had the perfect opportunity to speak with the very people who work with those living with osteoporosis. Meanwhile, with many of the instructors in their 40s and 50s, they saw the potential for bonebalance to help protect their bone health.
Alongside us and also flying the flag for solutions that build new bone tissue effectively and naturally was the Marodyne LiV device. This low intensity vibrating plate from MyBones drew quite a crowd keen to feel the gentle buzz through their body. Their lovable skeleton mascot George was also much admired!
Ending on a high note
The conference closed with the chance for all to join Avtar and Anne in a spot of Bollywood dancing. Just as for each speaker, we were up off our chairs and moving – practising what was being preached. And with a smile on our faces.
Move it or Lose it has come a very long way, delivering classes in care homes, village halls and GP surgeries. The refrain throughout the day’s talks emphasised just how important this exercise is for our health. There is still work to be done but we stand by Julie’s vision that more and more people will be able to enjoy healthy ageing and start on this road by moving their mindset from ‘I can’t’ or ‘I shouldn’t’ to, instead, believing ‘I can’ and ‘I want to’.