The other day, a friend asked me how best to improve energy levels as we grow older.  

This is a complex but important subject. Not least because a major aim of positive ageing is to remain capable of continuing activities that matter to us.

And my answer to the question was that I believe we need an energetic mind.

Now obviously, there are people who are so full of physical energy they’re bouncing off the walls.

But for most of us, even if we were once like that, it’s a distant memory.

These days, we require mental energy to get us going. 

Also, we have to accept that we must participate in energetic activities if we want to feel more dynamic – because the weird thing about energy is that, somehow, you get more of it by using it. 

And the brutal truth is, that if you wait till you feel you have plenty of energy before doing anything, you’ll probably wait a long time.

I’m not saying we never run out of energy when we’re active. But generally, when we talk ourselves into doing something requiring physical effort, we end up feeling livelier than we did before we began.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced situations when we’ve been feeling apathetic, but have made ourselves take a brisk walk, or continue with some woodwork project, or go to an exercise class or choir practice – and having done so, felt cheered up and sprightly.

It wasn’t our heart, muscles, limbs or bloodstream that prompted this change, it was our mental reasoning, along the lines of, “I know I’ll feel better for doing it”.

And perhaps our minds also came up with a little bribe in the shape of a promised hot bath afterwards or a nice glass of wine.

So, we activate our mind and in turn this activates our bodies.

For example, on a dark, damp day, if you sit at your computer and book a holiday in the sun for later in the year, your mental energy will start buzzing and soon afterwards you’ll feel more physically energetic too.

Indeed, having made the booking, you might well go off to the shops with a spring in your step or venture into the garden to do some weeding – and all because you gave your mind free rein to focus on something different, lively and lovely.

You don’t have to break the bank to do it. Just organising a group of friends to gather together for a walk, a supper in your kitchen or a pizza night-out can not only lift you out of torpor at the time, but often make you sparkier and happier for days thereafter.  

But what can you do if, despite your best efforts, the mind-over matter approach isn’t working for you? Well, try looking at reasons for that.  

Sometimes it can be as simple as being dehydrated. As we age, we often forget to consume sufficient liquid.

This can become such a problem it makes us hungry, listless, weak or vague. So, keep a check on how much you’re drinking.

Then examine your diet. Lots of people eat cereal and toast for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch and a pie or pasta in the evening. This is a lot of starch and it’s probably not giving you sufficient energy.  For that, you need protein.

The recommended daily intake of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of our weight, which means that if, say, you weigh 65 kg (approximately 10 stone 3lbs) you should be eating at least 56 grams of protein.

For guidance, an average chicken breast provides around 30 grams. I should also tell you that some nutritional experts now believe people of our age require more than this, because it becomes very much harder to maintain muscle mass and energy as the years go by.

So, if you never have enough “get up and go”, eating more protein might help.  

You may be overweight – and if so, this is likely to harm energy levels. A close relative of mine who has recently started tackling his own considerable weight problem has lost 2kgs in the last fortnight.

Amazingly, this small amount has already pepped him up and he’s started walking for 20 minutes a day.

Literally in his case, small steps are leading to a change of attitude which is increasing his energy.  

Another reason for feeling languid can stem from medications. So, if you’re on regular drugs, do read up about side-effects.

Sometimes, if a doctor switches you onto another brand designed to treat the same condition, you’ll feel better.

You should also see a doctor if you’ve been feeling generally unwell for a while, are thirsty or cold all the time, or breathless, have chest pain or worry that your memory is deteriorating.  

But when we’re in reasonable nick, most of us can work on firing up our minds with plans that will boost our energy levels. And that’s what we need to do.   

Aristotle, who knew a thing or two, once said: “The energy of the mind is the essence of life”.  

I don’t think any of us would disagree with that.