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Say what you like about Sarah, Duchess of York – and people really do – but even her critics would have to concede that she has impressive energy levels. A quick stroll around the weird corridors of her Instagram account proves it.
There she is, hungrily tearing open a cardboard box filled with copies of her first book for adults, the Mills & Boon romance Her Heart For a Compass. There she is, stopping at the University of Huddersfield after a visit to another charity of which she’s become patron
There she is standing on a rock. There she is striding about in the garden. There she is baking cupcakes. There she is hosting an awards ceremony. There she is in fancy dress, reading from one of the 70-odd children’s books she’s written. There she is hiding in a tree…
At 61, Fergie seems to be as happy, healthy and peppy as ever. And in an interview over the weekend, she revealed the secrets to her regime.
“I get up at 6.30am,” she wrote, “then I always do an hour or so of meditation.” Breakfast is soft-boiled eggs with granary toast, followed by a tangerine. Then she might “train” (it was reported that she has turned to an “A-list” personal trainer last year), or at least “try to do an hour of steps on the staircase.”
Every other day, she said, she does 30 press-ups and 50 sit-ups. Lunch is grilled fish or chicken; a bag of Skittles is the guilty pleasure; and she “unwind[s] with a nice glass of Burgundy.”
Up early, lean food, a strict exercise regime, endless work, all resulting in age-defying energy levels – Fergie might not be an officially working member of the Royal family these days, but her health and fitness routine has plenty in common with the other over-60s members of the Firm. Want to keep working into old age? You could do worse than emulating this lot...
Prince Charles, 72
According to his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles is “as fit as a mountain goat” – and mountain goats are, according to National Geographic, “powerful but nimble and can jump nearly 12 feet in a single bound.” Not bad for a 72-year-old in a double-breasted Anderson & Sheppard suit.
“He is probably the fittest man of his age I know,” Camilla reckoned, when talking about how Charles bounced back from his Covid diagnosis so swiftly last year. “He’ll walk and walk and walk [...] he is a very, very fit man.”
Famously, the health and fitness discipline that has allowed Charles to remain pretty much the same shirt size for most of his adult life, was inherited from his father. The late Prince Philip is said to have taught his eldest to do the 5BX (Five Basic Exercises) regime, which was developed in the 1950s by fitness pioneer Bill Orban for the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Promising to give people a full-body strength workout and flexibility training, the 5BX involves performing five exercises within 11 minutes: stretching, sit-ups, back extensions, press-ups and on-the-spot running.
As well as his love of walking in the fresh air, Prince Charles’s diet is also fairly disciplined. He avoids lunch, as a rule. According to a biographer, breakfast is “a handful of his specially mixed wheatgerm and cereal grains, with honey and preserves on a silver tray, a few pieces of fruit and tea.” He then has a soft-boiled egg. Rumour has it, he has one with every meal, in fact.
The Duchess of Cornwall, 74
If Charles is a mountain goat, what does that make Camilla? Probably something very flexible, like a cheetah, or a worm. Let’s say a cheetah. Once a big smoker, who’d fully invest in a Proper Lunch, she’s now into yoga, Pilates and even added ballet in lockdown.
“It’s very good for you. It makes you much more supple. I think it’s very important as you get older to take exercise and stretch,” she once said of yoga and Pilates. And she’s right: ask any fitness expert and they will tell you that stretching and light resistance work is key in older age.
She also walks every day: “I think we’ve all got to keep active. If we don’t we’ll all seize up, you know, we won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.”
Camilla doesn’t shy away from a glass of red – you might remember her clutching a big glass at the G7, while others had iced waters or gin and tonics – and was “brought up as a child drinking wine and water rather like the French”, but otherwise she eats as healthily (but perhaps not as sparingly) as her husband these days.
She’s spoken before about the importance of “good fats”, by which people normally mean avocados, and at an event to launch the Royal Osteoporosis Society (both her mother and grandmother died with the bone-weakening disease), suggested “clean eating” is “the worst thing to do.”
“It is this ridiculous dieting, cutting out dairy and all the things that are good for your bones,” she said. They are, she said “fad diets” that deprive the bones of calcium.
Princess Anne, 70
Much has been made of the fact that Princess Anne still chooses to wear outfits she first bought (or was given, at least) half a century ago, but just as impressive as that thriftiness is that, at almost 71, she still fits in them.
Anne is, of course, not only a member of the ever-slim and disciplined Windsor family, but also an ex-Olympian. She still rides and walks whenever she is at home in Gloucestershire, and like her brother, is said to eat no processed food. She also has no qualms about skipping meals.
“I think during the day, eating’s not really an issue,” she told Vanity Fair last year, explaining that she won’t eat if she’s busy with engagements in the day.
The Duke of York, 61
According to a much-publicised interview, Prince Andrew rarely breaks a sweat, but has been known to frequent pizzerias. More on this as we get it.
The Queen, 95
When you see her standing on ceremony for hours at a time, pretending to look interested in things and meeting people, it’s easy to forget that the Queen is five years short of 100.
“I’m as strong as a horse,” she likes to say to people who doubt her stamina, but few would – she somehow never shows any sign of fatigue, even when navigating 1000-strong events or on overseas tours. Food, drink, toilet breaks are all shunned. Her staff, many of whom are a third of her age, can’t keep up.
There isn’t much out there about a fitness regime the Queen follows – beyond training her neck muscles up to support the St Edward’s Crown at her coronation – and it’s been said that she doesn’t enjoy anything more vigorous than a horse ride and long ramble. That may be the key to her longevity, in fact: some experts believe people who move a lot each day, but don’t do things that are overly strenuous, have the best chance of living to an old age.
As for her diet? A cup of black Earl Grey is said to start the day, then a breakfast of either scrambled eggs and smoked salmon; toast and marmalade; or cereal and fresh fruit. Grilled chicken and vegetables for lunch. Then there might be a bit of high tea, before a basic dinner of more lean meat and steamed greens and potatoes.
It’s a thoroughly healthy lifestyle and a fairly restricted diet, but then, she comes from a generation – and family – entirely averse to over-indulgence. And the next generation has followed her.