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I exercise less than ever but I'm still fit at 68 – here's how

Glynis Barber swapped her intense routine for a laidback approach to exercise

By: Glynis Barber
July 1, 2024
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Exercise has never been a chore for me. It's how I start my day and I look forward to it, which I know some people will find hard to believe.

Just a few short years ago I had quite a weekly routine that saw me do two yoga classes, at least one long hike and between four to six gym sessions a week. These sessions would alternate between cardio and weights, each session an hour or more long.

But then came the pandemic. I was the last person left in my gym before we locked down. I vividly remember my last workout because I looked around and there was no one else there. Just me and all the machines. I thought to myself, "What if they close the gyms, what will I do?"

Woman holding a dumbell
Glynis' workout routine changed during the pandemic

The next day we were in lockdown and my exercise regime has never been the same since. Even now, more than two years after the pandemic, I hardly ever go to the gym. And I feel great and just as fit as before.

How is this possible I hear you ask?

To begin with, there was no choice. We were in lockdown and that was that. I did what many people did and discovered the many workout videos available on YouTube.

I invested in some weights and tried to keep up with my previous regime. Yoga classes were by Zoom and walks in the park were still possible.

But inevitably things began to shift. I found I was using slightly lighter weights as the YouTube workouts tended to have more repetitions and therefore a lighter weight was needed. And I found most of the sessions I was doing were just thirty minutes long, half the length I was used to.

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This suited me because the pandemic turned out to be a very busy time for me. While most actors were completely unable to work, I found myself doing a lot of voiceovers, mostly narrating documentaries. I was able to do this from home and did forty documentaries in the first lockdown period alone. I also expanded my Ageless by Glynis Barber website

Smiling woman in a green shirt
Glynis has a relaxed approach to working out

I had founded the website ten years previously to share my health, beauty and pro-ageing tips, after being asked constantly about what my secret was on social media. The pandemic gave me time to create an Ageless YouTube channel as well and to put Ageless on Instagram.

At the tail end of the pandemic, I got cast in Hollyoaks and so began a weekly commute to Liverpool.

I was filming five days a week most weeks with early starts and a late finish. Working out became almost impossible. And so, my already somewhat reduced routine, became almost non-existent.

I would work out on the weekends and if ever I had a morning off during the week, I would try and squeeze one in. But I was also tired. What with commuting, filming, writing Ageless articles, making YouTube videos as well as doing my voiceovers, I was run ragged. I felt like I had three full-time jobs, and something had to give.

Pushing myself too far

I've always been a person who pushes herself, who tries to do everything thrown at her, but it was all too much.

I felt a real shift in my thinking at this point. I decided I was going to cut myself some slack. For the first time in my adult life, I was going to give myself permission not to work out and not to feel bad about it.

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I would do it whenever I could and when I felt up to it. I got into the routine of getting up ten minutes earlier on filming days and would do a ten-minute yoga routine. This gave my body a wonderful stretch and it was amazing how this short routine set me up for the day.

Listening to my body

There were also days off when I just felt so exhausted from my gruelling schedule that I felt a workout was not the right thing for me. Instead, I would take my dog for a walk. This felt good and I started really listening to my body and what it needed.

My workouts now depend on the time I have available and how I feel. I've found the YouTube videos at home so wonderfully convenient and wonder where I used to find the time to drive to the gym and do those long workouts.

Woman in gym clothes in a workout studio
Glynis is less strict about her exercise regime at 68

I now go to the gym occasionally but have been too busy for it to become a regular thing. Now that I've finished with Hollyoaks filming, I will make more of an effort and will probably go at least once a week. But I've found that the thirty-minute sessions at home suit me. I no longer feel the need for longer sessions.

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The proof

Research shows that I may be onto something here. Make no mistake, we need exercise, but the latest research shows that we don't need to do long or intense sessions. In fact, the research shows that many people, in their quest for health, are, in fact, overdoing it.

Dr. James O’Keefe, a cardiologist with the Mid-America Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, published a meta-analysis with three co-authors on the subject. Dr. O’Keefe says that the first twenty minutes of exercise give you the most benefit.

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His systematic review showed that if you move from a sedentary lifestyle to gently starting to exercise, you will have a decrease in many chronic diseases as well as mortality.

In other words, the benefits of exercising are immense. But he also found that people at the other end of the spectrum, doing a high volume of vigorous exercise, start to lose those benefits.

He goes on to say, however, that you can't overdo moderate exercise, loosely defined as still being able to have a conversation while working out.

woman smiling in a dark top
Glynis' workout regime shifted

He classes many regular everyday activities as moderate exercise eg. gardening, walking, swimming or housework. There are more health benefits to these moderate activities than vigorous exercise.

Exercise for over 45s

He stresses that over the age of 45, exercise should be fun and more about stress reduction and less about competitiveness. And whilst strength training is important for improving muscle mass, which declines as we age, we only need 20-40 minutes of it, twice, and no more than three times, a week. He calls this the sweet spot for longevity.

The takeaway from all of this is, too much exercise can backfire, being sedentary is bad and gentle or moderate exercise is good for us.

My reduced regime

This explains why my reduced regime and thirty-minute sessions are working well for me. It also explains why, over the last couple of years when I’ve been so busy, walking was often more beneficial for me than a workout.

In fact, Dr O’Keefe talks about the many benefits of spending time in nature, something I've often talked about on Ageless. Being surrounded by greenery can reduce blood pressure and improves our mood. It helps alleviate anxiety, supports our immune system and can even help improve sleep.

Walking in a park, or even a tree-lined street, is a wonderful exercise in every way. And walking is one of the best exercises there is.

This new gentle way of exercising feels right for me at this moment in time. I look back on my old routine with awe. It was impressive for sure, but that was then, and this is now. The important thing is that I’m still very active, I exercise in some way whenever I can, but I’ve taken the pressure off myself and feel good for it.

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