Skip to main content

Staying young

Prince Philip’s exercise regime

Getty Images

They were the fittest, leanest generation, says Guy Kelly in the Telegraph, and Prince Philip was their “standard-bearer”. Born in the 1920s, they built health and fitness habits that lasted a lifetime. Today we get lost in the never-ending contradictions of the wellness industry, but “they simply learned the basics and stuck to them”.

Through the years, it’s extraordinary how little Prince Philip changed. His Piccadilly tailor, Kent & Haste, barely had to alter a stitch. “We could all learn a thing or two,” says Kelly. Here are his fitness secrets:

💪 The Five Basic Exercises (5BX) In the navy, Prince Philip learnt “the only exercise regime he’d ever need” – five exercises in 11 minutes. A minute of stretching; a minute of sit-ups; then back extensions (lie on your front with your hands under your thighs, palms facing upwards, and raise one leg a few inches, then the other); a minute of press-ups; and finally six minutes of running on the spot. Every 75 steps you do 10 scissor jumps: stand with your right arm and left leg extended forward, and your left arm and leg back. Jump and change the position of the arms and legs before landing.  

🥕 Diet The secret is moderation, a consequence of wartime rationing. Dieticians often argue that the war gave Britain its healthiest-ever diet.  

🚬 Ditching tobacco Every cigarette you smoke is said to knock 11 minutes off your life. Prince Philip smoked for years, but gave up almost overnight before his marriage. He loved beer, usually at lunch, but never in excess. 

😐 Restraint and self-control These may have been instilled in him by Kurt Hahn, the headmaster at his Scottish boarding school, Gordonstoun. 

Do go down to the woods today

Mamoru Muto/Getty Images

Spending time in forests can reduce stress, boost immunity and lower blood pressure, says Kari Molvar in The New York Times. In Japan, forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, has been considered a form of preventative medicine for decades. Now it’s “a well-established ritual among wellness buffs in the West”, with guided walks in the woods offered by “rustic outfitters and high-end spas alike”.

Soaking up the forest’s sounds, smells and scenery can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Breathing in phytoncides, the aromatic oils released by trees, strengthens the immune system by boosting the number of natural killer cells in the body.

Qing Li, president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine in Tokyo, recommends a three-day stay in the woods once a month or a six-hour trip once a week. Those too busy to visit a real wood should listen to birdsong, drink herbal teas, buy potted trees and use forest-inspired scents, infusers and bath oils.