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Rosemary’s nine steps: How to boost our immune systems

Rosemary Conley CBE, Editor-in-Chief of FirstPort’s Life & Style magazine, is working on a new initiative to help people stay fit and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak. In this blog Rosemary shares her tips on how to keep our diet in check at a time when overeating can be especially tempting.

A few months ago we hadn’t even heard of the terms ‘social distancing’ or ‘self-isolating’, but these are extraordinary times in which we now find ourselves and all of us are being asked to change the way we live.

Trying to control the COVID-19 outbreak presents us with many challenges, but it is in all of our interests to follow the rules for our own health.

As I wrote in my last blog, we can all use the extra time we now have productively and commit to some self-improvement. One way of doing this is through regular exercise – and we can all keep fit at home by just getting a little creative! To provide some further inspiration, we’ve now uploaded a second set of ‘exercise-at-home’ videos to the FirstPort website, which you can watch here.

In these challenging times, exercising regularly is crucial to our wellbeing. It helps us to maximise our resilience and is powerful in boosting our immune system. But in addition to exercise, eating healthily is really important too.

We all want to stay safe and it’s not too late to make a real difference to our immune system and increase our chances of surviving the virus.

We are continually reminded that those most at risk from Coronavirus are the elderly, those suffering from asthma, heart disease, diabetes or who have compromised immune systems resulting from cancer. Being overweight is also a significant risk factor.

But there is good news. By taking some simple steps to change our everyday lifestyle – the way we eat, drink and exercise – this can help dramatically improve our immune system and consequently, our chances of staying safe from the Coronavirus. If we follow these simple steps, we will not only improve our fighting-power against the virus and other infections, but we will also feel so much better physically and mentally, and hopefully create some great new ways to live longer, fitter and happier.


Never has there been a more important time for us to look at ourselves in the mirror or get on the scales and face the facts. Are we overweight?

Eating healthily and keeping our weight under control is important at any age, but never more so than now.

As our joints begin to show the signs of wear and tear and our muscles become a little less strong, carrying around any ‘excess baggage’ can be both exhausting and depressing as well as dangerous for our health. Being overweight puts us at risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes – all the conditions that put us at greater risk of the virus.

Overweight and obesity is not a curable disease but it is a manageable one. Acknowledging that we are overweight is an important first step but it is also important that we don’t use age as an excuse for carrying a few extra pounds.

Here are nine simple steps to helps us lose those extra pounds:

  1. Cut your portion sizes by 20%. Only cook exactly the portion you need to avoid temptation.
  2. Avoid snacking between meals – avoid cakes, biscuits, savoury snacks, sweets but instead nibble on chopped vegetables such as strips of cucumber, carrots, cherry tomatoes, chopped peppers – all of which will boost your immune system.
  3. Drink plenty of fluids – water, tea or squash. Coffee is fine in moderation. It is vital to stay hydrated for good health.
  4. Eat more fibre. Select whole-grain bread, high-fibre cereals such as Fruit ‘n Fibre, Bran flakes, Special K, Weetabix, Muesli or porridge. Eat new potatoes with the skins intact and fill up on vegetables as these provide valuable fibre. Pasta and basmati rice are healthy too as they keep you feeling fuller for longer.
  5. Cut back on the fat. Fat contains twice as many calories compared with carbohydrates and proteins. Try grilling and dry-frying rather than cooking in fat or oil. Remove the obvious fat from meat. Chicken breasts are low in fat and easy to cook in a variety of ways.
  6. Drink alcohol in moderation. Stick to Government guidelines of no more than 14 units of alcohol a week and try to have at least two ‘dry’ days a week.
  7. Cut back on sugar. Sugar contains ‘empty’ calories which means that it has no nutrients – just calories. The real enemy to avoid is sugar combined with fat when we are trying to lose weight and get healthy. Cakes, cookies, biscuits and pies are packed full of fat and sugar, lots of calories and very little healthy goodness.
  8. Be creative with sandwiches. Try spreading your bread with low fat dressings in preference to butter or margarine which are around 80% fat. Products such as Branston pickle, low fat mayonnaise, extra-light soft cheese, HP sauce, fruity sauce, tomato ketchup, Marmite, mustard and horseradish sauce are great alternatives which can be spread straight on to the bread to add taste and moisture.
  9. Exercise is key to weight-loss. Exercise burns extra calories, burns fat, increases your fitness and strengthens your heart and lungs. Regular exercise is a lifesaver and done regularly, it will transform your physical and mental wellbeing.

If you’re looking for some inspiration on how to cook more healthy and nutritious food, why not check out the new edition of Life & Style magazine? It’s packed full of recipe ideas that you could try while you’re at home – from evening meals, to tasty salads and delicious desserts.

Of course, like a healthy lifestyle, the key to a good diet is balance. It’s helpful to try and follow a few rules to keep you on track and make sure you don’t consume too much fatty or unhealthy foods. If you can do this, it won’t only make your body feel better, but you’ll also feel proud that you’re in control.

That’s why in my next blog I’ll be writing about the importance of attitude – this is what ties together a healthy approach to living. Until next time, please make sure to look after yourself, help each other where you can and please, try your best to stay positive. I am self-isolating too so I am with you all the way.

About the author:

Rosemary Conley CBE is the editor of FirstPort’s Life & Style magazine – which is circulated in print and as an online edition to over 1,000 retirement developments in the UK. She is best known for her multi-million selling diet books and fitness DVDs and as a TV health and fitness presenter, appearing for seven years on ITV’s This Morning with Richard & Judy.

Rosemary Conley was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Leicestershire in 1999 and in 2001 was the first woman to be given the Freedom of the City of Leicester. In 2004, she was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours for ‘services to the fitness and dieting industries’. In 2002, Rosemary appeared on This is Your Life and in 2012 on Dancing on Ice.

The views expressed in this blog reflect the author’s opinion and are not necessarily the views of the publisher. The publisher accepts no liability for any loss or damage of any kind caused by errors and is not responsible for the accuracy of claims made by the author.