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(Credit: Mary McCartney)

Music

Paul McCartney and his strange age-defying exercise routine

Most famous for his work alongside John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in The Beatles, Paul McCartney and his three Liverpool bandmates changed the face of popular music almost single-handedly over just a few years during the 1960s. They began the transformative decade sporting shiny kempt mops and smart suits writing primarily of love and ended it looking like the cast of Scooby-Doo singing about apemen, yellow submarines and glass onions.

While we sadly had to say goodbye to Lennon and Harrison far too early, McCartney has remained alive and musically relevant as ever. The recently invested octogenarian became the oldest act to ever headline on Glastonbury’s famous Pyramid Stage a few weeks ago. He sprung onto the stage with the energy of a 21-year-old and sang his way through a two-hour set as he took to the bass, six-string, ukelele and piano to play emphatic renditions of Beatles classics and a selection of more recent Wings and solo hits. 

While watching McCartney doing his thing on stage, I found it mindboggling that his voice was wholly unchanged by the remorseless scythe of time and that his limbs could seem so limber and energetic. Even I, in my mid-20s, can feel the weight of time thus far and extrapolating a further 55 years makes my joints ache and my skin sink. 

Naturally, after seeing McCartney hit the stage with a thick head of hair, looking 20 years his junior, many of us have been wondering what his secret is. As it turns out, the musical legend does have a number of odd tricks up his sleeve.

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As one might expect, the miracle lies in the widely dreaded exercise and healthy eating – goodbye chocolate bars and television, hello broccoli and barbells. McCartney’s exercise regime involves some pretty strange habits, though. One of his age-defying hobbies is eye yoga. During an appearance on the podcast Table Manners in 2021, the former Beatle explained where he first came across the activity.

“I learned [it] off some yogi in India,” he said. “He explained that your eyes are muscles whereas your ears aren’t, so you can’t exercise your ears. But your eyes, you can.”

Fortunately, for those looking to learn from the master, McCartney continued describing the eye yoga poses. “So, head still, and then you look up as far as you can, one, two, three, go back to the middle, then down, one, two, three, then back to the middle. You do three lots of that, then go to the left and the right. Now you’ve got a cross, up and down, and sideways, now you do the diagonals.” He admitted that he couldn’t be sure that it was the secret behind his prevailing eye health, but he suggested that “it makes sense”. 

Another aspect of McCartney’s exercise regime was revealed by his daughter, Mary. In an interview with The Times in 2021, Mary explained that her father likes to keep fit with an exercise routine every day after waking up. “He has an exercise routine every morning and finishes it off with a faultless, unsupported five-minute headstand,” Mary explained.

While the image of an 80-year-old McCartney balancing on his head is, without doubt, an amusing one, the pose can do wonders for core strength and thus prolonged mobility. 

On a final note, McCartney often cites his long-lived vegetarian diet as a key contributor to his enduring health and vitality. The star first cut meat from his diet in 1975, inspired by his wife Linda’s idealogy. 

Linda was such an advocate for the personal and planetary benefits of a meat-free diet that she famously founded Linda McCartney foods in 1991. The company specialises in meat-free alternatives, which are now a readily available commodity in supermarkets around the world. “You can get loads of vegetarian options these days, so it’s not like it was like in the old days when you just got the boiled sprout,” McCartney said in an interview back in 2018. 

A plant-based diet does wonders for global efforts for agricultural sustainability and fighting the climate crisis. In recent years, scientific evidence has also suggested that the diet can supplement healthy ageing and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

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