November 25, 2020

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The Queen’s fitness routine once involved weight training with St. Edward’s Crown

3 min read

An excerpt of Long Live the Queen, a forthcoming book about the wellness secrets that have kept  94-year-old Queen Elizabeth II fit, discusses a fitness routine that once involved weight training with the St. Edward’s Crown.

The Queen’s fitness routine

Yes, according to Glamour, the Queen “is a great believer in sensible exercise.” It is no secret that the Queen surpassed the longevity of the average British woman (for women born in 1926, life expectancy is 70.6 years) long ago. Therefore, many wonder: How does she keep fit?

The biographer Ingrid Seward noted that apart from gentle gallops on her horses and a few occasional country sports, walking has been the one constant source of physical activity in her life. When at Buckingham Palace, every afternoon around she’ll go for a long walk around the gardens. Out in the country, at Balmoral or Sandringham, she’ll ramble a bit longer through moorlands and woods. She simply walks naturally, with an “intentionally measured and deliberate pace,” to quote her longtime dress designer Norman Hartnell. 

Meanwhile, the only real “weight training” she has ever endured was done out of necessity. Insisting on wearing the traditional St. Edward’s Crown for her coronation in 1953, Elizabeth rehearsed for weeks prior, marching around the palace wearing the jewel-encrusted crown, priming her neck muscles for the big event. Employees in the Palace kitchen liken it to carrying two bags of sugar on your head. 

Researchers found that people most likely to reach their 100th birthday were those who simply walked and moved more every day, not necessarily more strenuously.

“The discovery led longevity researcher Dan Buettner to abandon the exercise mania of modern gyms in favor of more ‘regular, low-intensity physical effort’ of the sort traditionally embraced, ‘the type of exercise that the rest of us should be doing”.

It is said that the Queen was brought up believing there was little difference between being playfully active and being physically fit – a mentality largely nurtured by her father, King George VI. 

“He hired Marion Crawford as the girls’ governess based on little more than the fact that she ‘loved walking’ and seemed spry and ‘young enough to enjoy playing games and running about’ with the princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret.

“Forever hatching up new ways to expend their energy, Crawfie took Margaret and Elizabeth to public pools in London and soon got them involved in Girl Guides, with its weekly meetings emphasizing outdoor games and activities. They went on mile-long marches, gathered wood for camping trips, and took part in limb-stretching callisthenics. The meetings were invigorating but ‘only mildly strenuous’, says biographer Carolly Erickson, and it was difficult to tell where the play ended and the exercise began.”

Sensible exercise

The only physical activities the Queen has stuck with for decades are the ones that have brought her emotional pleasure. She relies on her daily walks and horseback rides, not because they have kept her muscles strengthened over the years but because they are her principal “alone” time, says biographer Christopher Andersen, when her mind gets a moment’s rest from the demands of an ever-tightening crown.

It might be obvious, but walking also has big benefits for your health. It’s a very good form of exercise that anyone can and should try and do more of. Because it’s only gentle, it’s not too strenuous even for those who cannot go too far.

A research review published in Current Opinions in Cardiology found that walking can play an important role in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease in younger, middle, and older men and women, in both healthy and patient populations. Meanwhile, in another study involving 529 participants with high blood pressure, researchers found that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were reduced after a six-month program of supervised walking. Other studies have shown that walking, specifically has lowered non-HDL cholesterol levels in adults by about 4%.