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Staying young

How fishing soothes the soul

The world’s best-paid actor, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, swears by fishing to unwind. “I’ve been raising my fish for over a decade now,” wrote the 49-year-old former wrestler on Instagram. “All my fish are fat, healthy, happy and AGGRESSIVE TO EAT – like their owner.” Johnson, who is worth $400m and has his own lake, also praised the mental benefits of being on the water. Fishing, he said, is a chance to “decompress” and “take mental inventory”.

He’s right, says Sam Wylie-Harris in The Independent. Fishing keeps you young. It’s a low-level but effective form of exercise. “Winding in even small fish takes a certain amount of strength, and if you wade out into the water, you’re working your leg muscles too; even balancing yourself is good for your core.” Better still are the surroundings. Research suggests a day on the water lowers our heart rate and soothes the soul. “And just imagine how passionate you’d become about fishing if you were to reel in a pike.”

Fags keep me fighting fit

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Anti-smokers are “humourless bossy boots”, says David Hockney in UnHerd. Oxfordshire last week announced it was trying to become England’s first “smoke-free” county: “I have no plans to go there.” But is smoking really as bad as we’re told? A report last week said there were 1.1 billion smokers in the world and eight million people had died from smoking in 2019. That works out at 0.73%. “What about the 99.27% that hadn’t?”

It doesn’t seem to have done Hockney any harm. The artist took up smoking aged 16, puffing on five Woodbines a day. Now 84, he smokes Davidoff magnums. Recently he told his doctor he was on 35 a day. “I also told him that I have had three doctors in the last 50 years. Each of them recommended I give up. But each of them has now died.”

Standing on one leg helps us live longer

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Standing on one leg, ideally with your eyes closed, can lengthen your life and keep your brain sharp, says Michael Mosley in BBC Radio 4’s Just One Thing, a health and wellbeing podcast. It’s all about balance: walking or running upright requires a “remarkable feat of co-ordination” between our muscles, eyes and inner ears. But our balance starts to deteriorate in our forties and fifties, as our muscles become weaker and our brains get worse at controlling our bodies. One study showed that the amount of time people in their fifties could stand on one leg with their eyes closed dictated how likely they were to be alive 13 years later. If you’re over 40 and can manage 10 seconds, you’re doing well.

It’s never too late to improve. Activities as such tai chi, or standing on one leg as you brush your teeth or wait for the kettle to boil, can improve your balance. That helps your posture and makes your brain work harder – it can even stave off dementia in the elderly. Professor Dawn Skelton at Glasgow Caledonian University has worked with 95-year-olds who couldn’t even get their toe off the floor. After a few months they could stand on one leg for an entire minute.

Listen to the podcast here.