Adele - the singer - has posted a thank you message to the carers and health staff of the UK for their unstinting work during the Covid-19 pandemic. A marvellous thing to do, you’d think - but it has caused a storm of comment and controversy across the internet, and on social media (so we’re told - we hardly use it). What has caused the storm is the photo of her which accompanies the thank you, which shows her having lost seven stone in weight!
The controversy comes because while half the comments are wildly enthusiastic, as if losing that much weight is what puts the final seal on an already glittering career, the other half are lamenting the fact that a former poster-girl for ‘Fat is Fab’ (we made that name up!) has in losing all that weight ‘gone over to the dark side’.
In the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, we wrote an article - printed below - which after a few days we took down. We did this as the situation became more and more serious and it became more and more obvious that this disease would hit everyone hard. Although older peole and those with 'underlying health conditions' have for the most part had worse outcomes than healthy individuals, Covid-19 has claimed the lives of people of all ages and health conditions and our article might have seemed inappropriate at the time.
However, we have decided to reprint the article now in the light of comments by Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London and the UK government's advisor on the epidemiological aspects of Covid-19, as reported in the Sunday Times of 12th April. Professor Feguson was asked how people could best prepare themselves for combatting the infection and his advice was that staying fit and losing weight was the best way to help oneself in the event of catching the infection.
So here is our original article, written on 13th of March, with further comment below:-
"Certainly epidemic, potentially pandemic, Coronavirus is now sweeping across the world. Amongst the medical advice on how best to avoid catching it - wash your hands as often as you like, for at least 30 seconds - much of the commentary is that those most at risk are older people. However, this is a complete generalisation!
‘I’ll never be as fit as I was when I was thirty’ is a complaint (excuse?) that we often hear when talking to people about the Silver Grey Sports Club, when explaining that we write about and film people over the age of fifty who do extreme and adventure sports. People then almost inevitably indulge in nostalgia for some mythical youth with limitless energy with which to go out and enjoy life and all it has to offer.
The reality is that unless your name is Usain Bolt or Dina Asher-Smith it’s probably not true that you’ll never be as fit as you were at thirty. Unless you happened to be a world champion at something the chances are that you didn’t fulfil your potential entirely. And if you didn’t there may well be some ‘headroom’ to exploit to enable you to become more fit than you were at thirty. It all depends on how fit you were at that age. How fit were you - really?
In the course of finding and reading the results of scientific research into the hugely beneficial effects of exercise on being older, one thing has jumped out at us, the importance of maintaining good muscle mass and tone - something we have written about time and again! When one looks at ‘normal’ older people, much of the ‘decline due to age’ can be put down to muscle deterioration and loss, with the consequent weakness and frailty which is so debilitating. So one can appreciate the effect of muscles on health. But what about the effect of muscles on ... language?
How much exercise do you need? Presumably that depends on your intention for the exercise and your ambition for success. For some of the people we write about, such as triathletes, their sport is their exercise. That is to say that triathlon consists of three activities which, were you not a triathlete, might well be at least some of your training activities. Other sports, say skiing or tennis, require physical conditioning on top of time spent doing or practising the sport itself in order to perform it well and to reduce the potential for injury of one kind or another. If doing the sport itself does not provide the physical capability to perform it, physical training is a requirement.
The 20th of September 2019 saw the most widespread eruption of climate change demonstrations since the issue of greenhouse gas emissions caused by a high-carbon economy began to be recognised as a major problem. 5,000 demos all around the world, trying to express to governments the vital and urgent need to make immediate changes to the way energy is produced by reducing, or preferably cutting out entirely, reliance on fossil fuels and generally moving to a low-carbon economy. The need to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases is not new, but the 2018 school strike of Greta Thunberg has finally lit the blue touch-paper of public outrage to the point where these demos are happening and public opinion cannot be ignored.