'Robert Ferguson, in his wonderful poem Caller Water, lampoons the medics and their cure-all, immersion in cold water out o’er the lugs’.

Tho’ joints be stiff as ony rung, your pith wi’ pain be sairly dung,

Be you in Caller Water flung, out o’er the lugs,

‘Twill mak ye souple, swack and young, withouten drugs.

Despite being described by Robert Burns as a genius and his mentor, the doctors got their own back by committing him to a mental asylum where he died two months later aged only 24. Ironically, Burns too died at an early age from bacterial endocarditis as a complication of rheumatic fever. The doctor’s prescription of regular immersion in the chilly Solway, while not actually causing his death, certainly hastened it.

A study by The Farm Safety Foundation found that 92% of farmers under 40 believe that poor mental health is the biggest issue facing the industry in the future. Articles about mental health appear regularly in farming periodicals which reinforce their viewpoint. I suspect that a similar proportion of farmers over the much-quoted average age of 58, while recognising the mental health issue, have different priorities and would place at least as much importance on physical wellbeing.

In the population in general, neglect of physical health is becoming so apparent that despite the enormous breakthroughs in medical science, today’s younger generation may be the first to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

New Year is traditionally a time when we make resolutions. Many are health related. Some hope that new drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic, which slim the body and the wallet, could be a quick fix. Others favour hormones, sometimes with unintended consequences.

The Telegraph reported the case in October of a woman who no longer fancied her husband. The doctor prescribed testosterone so now she fancies everyone except her husband.

To no-one’s surprise, what goes around comes around and Caller Water is back in vogue. To date, there are around 700,000 posts on Instagram with the hashtag ‘wild swimming’.

Followers of Wim Hof preach the benefits of immersion through a hole in the ice. This, they claim, improves circulation, stimulates the lymphatic system and releases endorphins which boost mental wellbeing. Those dipping in Southern Water authority areas would be advised to keep their mouths shut.

Much new information, not only on prolonging life but also in maintaining its quality, is in the public domain. Research is ongoing on how senior citizens can remain active and pain free.

With a unanimous caveat against smoking, all concentrate on diet and exercise. Both require self-discipline. However, the discomfort of hunger or exhaustion can now be to an extent mitigated by taking advantage of recent scientific breakthroughs.

Diets come and go. They all work, and I have tried them all. The size of my waistline indicates that the challenge is keeping to them, with boredom as

often as hunger the crunch factor. The longest lasting and least socially dislocating in my own experience is the Weight Watchers diet which promotes regular supervised weighing and keeping a food diary.

Exercise is at least important as diet. Huge resources are expended by governments and private companies to combat obesity. While this is certainly warranted, recent research indicates that the real epidemic is inactivity. In over-60s, the fit but fat individual has almost half the risk of early death as the unfit, fat person.

Unlike with dieting, a much higher proportion of those who take up exercise stick with it.

Unfortunately, despite its benefits, exercise is a poor way to lose weight. It comes two ways. Aerobic exercise stimulates the heartbeat. The traditional way of doing this, by raising the pulse by 60% to 80% for about 30 minutes, is through low-impact exercise like jogging or fast walking.

The second kind of exercise is the maintenance of muscle mass by using weights, bands, or one’s body weight as resistance. During the Covid lockdown, by necessity, I pumped iron at home. However, this was a poor second to going to the gym. I am part of a group of no more than four with a ratio of male to female of 1:3, where we are supervised by an expert who corrects our form and ensures we push ourselves but not so hard as to cause harm.

A significant problem in senior citizens is reduced flexibility. Stretching definitely helps but the benefits are short term. I tried yoga for several months. This was purely the physical form without the association with oriental mysticism, which is basically a more highly-developed form of stretching. The most effective loosening-up technique for me was the less well known Somatics.

Superficially, it resembles stretching but it is very different and works by training individual muscles to relax, which have become set by how

we stand, sit, sleep, drive, read and watch television. It is difficult to describe how it works in a short article, but information is available on the internet or, best of all, in the book Somatics by Thomas Hanna, the founder of the technique. It won’t make you ‘souple, swack and young’ but it will help.

If all else fails, we can always fake it until we make it. Anne Glenconner, who was a lady-in-waiting at the late

Queen’s Coronation in 1953, has, aged 90, written two books. She noted how geriatric peers at the recent Coronation shuffled along the Nave of Westminster Abbey. At the last Coronation, Lord Home, a keen cricketer, found progress so slow that he found himself musing into whether or not the Nave would take spin.

Many years ago, when returning home from a funeral with my uncle, he remarked that a relative ‘looked awfy auld with his mouth hanging open’.

For anyone trying to retain a semblance of youth without sweat or immersion ‘out o’er the lugs’ in Caller Water, maybe the best advice is simply not to shuffle and never let your mouth hang open.