Ita Buttrose on staying in shape and her ‘non-negotiable’ daily health habit

Apr 08, 2021
Aussie icon Ita Buttrose says it is important not to take your heath for granted. Source: Getty.

With the uncertainty of the past year, it’s no surprise Aussies’ stress levels have soared, with a recent health report by Priceline Pharmacy revealing Australian women were far more likely to be stressed than men.

The report showed that stress levels across all states had risen substantially post-pandemic lockdowns, with some states almost doubling their stress levels. The report also found 55.6 per cent of people surveyed recorded an unhealthy body mass index, while 25.6 per cent were at risk of developing diabetes and 12.6 per cent recorded high blood pressure.

So, Starts at 60 sat down with Australian icon and Priceline Pharmacy ambassador, Ita Buttrose to talk about stress, health, self-care and how she balances them all with her busy schedule.

How do you prioritise self care?  

“One of my most important self-care rituals is ‘me time’. By that I mean time for me to stop and reflect – it might be just sitting on my deck in the sunshine, enjoying the view and sipping a cup of tea – but it’s my time. Sometimes it’s only 10 minutes, other times longer, but it allows me to meditate and recharge my batteries.

“I always start the day with a large glass of water and then some exercise. I like to walk every day – a long walk in the morning and a shorter walk in the evening. I always do some daily stretching too. Stretching keeps muscles flexible and helps maintain good posture. Your body will thank you!

“Another routine that I always observe is the bedtime ritual which helps alert my brain that it’s time to rest. I turn on some calming music – I opt for classical and find Brahms and Mozart very restful. I have a cup of chamomile tea, then make sure I remove all my makeup including mascara. I am then ready for sleep. Too many of us short change ourselves on sleep. I try for at least seven hours.

“Sleep keeps us healthy, revitalises our brain and is beneficial for our mental wellbeing.”

What daily habits are non-negotiable for you?

“My exercise routine is number one on this list. As well as walking every day, I do pilates twice a week and this includes using weights. Pilates improves flexibility and muscle strength and I always feel wonderfully supple after a class. Working with weights helps lower age-related muscle loss as we grow older and helps to develop stronger bones.

“I am vigilant about my bone health because I’ve seen too many older women robbed of their independence because of a fall caused by osteoporosis. I have a regular bone scan, take Vitamin D every day, and also make sure I spend some time in the sunshine and protect my face with SPF50 sunblock.

“Lately, I have been learning more about the best way to breathe at my pilates classes. Apparently, nose breathing is more beneficial than mouth breathing because it helps filter out dust and allergens and boosts oxygen uptake as we breathe.”

What are your tips for starting a self-care routine?

“Just get going. Stop procrastinating and commit yourself to the task of working out a self-care routine that you will enjoy. Work out how you can incorporate the routine into your everyday life.

“Remember, your self-care routine is supposed to revitalise you so it should be enjoyable. Don’t feel you have to do what everyone else is doing. Do your own thing. For instance, if you hate walking consider bike-riding, ballroom dancing or swimming. Exercise is important for your health so choose something you like or try something new like pilates, yoga or perhaps tai chi, which is one of the most effective exercises for our mind and body health. It also helps improve balance, which often declines in older men and women with one in three people over 65 experiencing a fall every year.

“After a couple of weeks evaluate your routine and fine-tune or adjust it as necessary to suit your lifestyle. Make taking care of yourself a priority.”

What’s your top tip for those wanting to improve their health?

“Don’t dismiss any health concerns as a ‘normal part of ageing’. Seek professional advice. There are doctors who specialise in older age health such as geriatricians, who care for older people especially those with complex medical issues. Don’t hesitate to ask your GP for a referral. Your local Priceline pharmacist is also a good starting point when it comes to seeking more information around your health needs, and they can also help guide you to the right health expert.

“To maintain good health eat healthily. If you’re not sure what kind of eating program you should follow ask your GP. Don’t take vision problems for granted – ask your doctor to refer you to an ophthalmologist or optician. Don’t take memory loss or confusion for granted either. Contrary to what many people think, dementia is definitely not a normal part of ageing. If you have any concerns about your memory consult your GP or visit dementia.org.au.

Ask your GP or local pharmacist to review your medications. Do you really still need to take all the various pills that have been prescribed over the years. Perhaps your condition has changed. Make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep. Stay physically active. A walk around the block is better than no walk at all.

“Make use of the services at your local Priceline Pharmacy and visit one of their free medically-approved Health Stations, set up to help monitor and improve health. You will be able to understand your blood pressure, body composition, BMI, heart rate and heart age. It takes only four minutes and your can discuss any of your concerns with the Priceline pharmacist.”

Do you believe healthy ageing correlates with a positive mindset? 

“Yes, I do. Thinking about ageing positively definitely helps me to age as optimistically and healthily as possible. Growing older is an adventure – all sorts of things happen, none of which most people expect – but life goes on, sometimes with limitations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy every day.

“As you grow older you develop a better understanding about people. You also acquire more tolerance and wisdom. You understand that there’s no need to worry today about something that might happen tomorrow. You also appreciate what’s important in your life and what isn’t, and that there’s no point in worrying about things you did in the past or having regrets.

“You can’t change the steps you have taken. You are who you are!”

What more can over-60s do to improve their health?

“Lots of things. Stay active. Walk with friends, go swimming, join a gym, she said. “Check out Exercise Right for Active Ageing, [it is] a national program designed for Australians over 65, that offers 12 subsidised group classes.

“Human beings are social by nature so don’t isolate yourself. Loneliness is not good for your health but as people grow older, many are alone more often than when they were younger. If you’re short on friends check out your local library. It’s a great way to meet people. Most libraries offer free groups and classes on a range of topics as well as book clubs.

“Consider joining groups on social media such as Facebook or volunteer for local community activities and charities.

“Never take your health for granted and be sure to always have an annual check-up.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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