Rock chick Jo Whiley on how she’s keeping her aches and pains at bay as she gets older

The DJ talks to Lisa Salmon about her love of exercise and altering her diet to try to ease her ‘niggles and aches’

Lisa Salmon
Wednesday 27 March 2024 08:45 GMT
DJ Jo Whiley is passionate about enhancing her diet with healthy options and working out regularly (Benecol/Simon John Owen/PA)
DJ Jo Whiley is passionate about enhancing her diet with healthy options and working out regularly (Benecol/Simon John Owen/PA)

There’s no denying that Jo Whiley is the epitome of a rock chick.

She’s been a DJ on BBC Radio 1 and 2 for more than 30 years, presented Glastonbury for almost as long, and mixes with rock royalty, both professionally and socially.

But although the genial broadcaster, who joined Radio 1 in 1993 and currently presents a weekday evening Radio 2 show, doesn’t look anywhere close to her 58 years, just like many people of her age the mum-of-four is feeling the march of time.

She’s got arthritis in her fingers, she’s keeping an eye on her cholesterol level, and her busy lifestyle means she feels more tired than she did when she was younger.

“I’ve got lots of niggles and aches, and though I’m hoping the arthritis is just contained to my fingers at the moment, I’m sure it’ll get elsewhere eventually,” she says ruefully.

“With the arthritis getting worse, and just being older, over the last year I feel like I’ve gone through a bit of a health overhaul and realised I need to eat better foods for energy levels – getting older, I get more tired because I work late at night.

“And also I’m doing my 90s Anthems gigs, which are really physically gruelling, and means I don’t get many days off in the week. But I just thought I’m going to really, really try and eat better food, so I’m eating loads of fruit – I pig out on blueberries all the time, and raspberries and strawberries and then lots of vegetables.”

Whiley became a pescetarian last year, joining her music executive husband Steve Morton and kids India, 31, Jude, 25, Cassius, 23, and Coco, 15, who are all vegetarian or vegan. “It feels like the right thing to be doing and I feel really healthy for it,” she says.

And she’s doing her best to enhance her diet with healthy additions, explaining: “I had years of my mum saying ‘you should be taking oils’, and as you do, you dismiss everything your mum says. But now I’m taking turmeric and omega oil and cider vinegar, and magnesium to help me sleep at night.

“I’m throwing everything at it – everything I possibly can. I’m taking collagen as well. I’m waiting for the results and I’m ever optimistic. It’s worth trying – I really will try anything.”

Her husband recently had his cholesterol checked, as both his parents had high cholesterol, and Whiley says: “It turned out he has got high cholesterol, and he’s really fit and sporty, so it was a bit of a shock. He was advised that medication might be the route he needs to take, and he very much didn’t want to do that, so his instinct was to try and do it with diet.”

Whiley says Morton, 59, now avoids the wrong fats, eats more vegetables and fish and fruit, uses Benecol cholesterol-lowering foods and is “staying aware”. His cholesterol levels are much healthier now than they were, she says. She’s also just had her cholesterol checked, and her total level is 4.8, which she says is “not bad at all”.

Exercise is one of the lifestyle factors that can help keep cholesterol levels healthy, and Whiley is absolutely passionate about being active. She swam for Northampton when she was younger, and says:  “Swimming’s my go to – I love swimming, I really do. If I’m ever feeling stressed, or if everything’s getting a little bit too much, I will go to the swimming pool and just do 30 lengths or something like that, and it’s just the best thing in the world for me, keeps me fit, keeps my head clear.”

She also runs, and does Pilates, explaining: “I’ve just decided that as I’ve got older I need to stop being so frantic in my exercise and maybe do something that stretches and tones, and so I’m trying to embrace Pilates.”

And if all that wasn’t enough, she also goes to the gym, where she sees a personal trainer. “He’s been whipping me into shape every year for Glastonbury for years now, so we’re in training already,” she says.

So does she need to be really fit for Glastonbury?

“No, I just don’t want to have bingo wings,” she says with a laugh, but continues: “Oh my god, be under no illusion, Glastonbury is exhausting – you cover miles and miles and miles, thousands of steps when you do Glastonbury and all the festivals.”

A love of exercise runs right through the family, and Whiley says proudly: “I don’t bully my kids into doing it, but it’s been really lovely seeing them grow up and naturally turn to sports as something that helps them with their mental health and general wellbeing.”

Her 15-year-old daughter recently started boxing, which Whiley says has been brilliant for her, although she adds, on a personal note: “I can’t do it because I’ve got arthritis in my fingers, which is the worst thing in the world – I can’t imagine anything more painful. They don’t look particularly nice either.”

But fortunately, Whiley’s arthritic fingers don’t stop her doing plenty of other exercise, and she adds: “My husband and I are both really keen to exercise, it’s just a really big part of our day – I think we do something nearly every day. For my general wellbeing I am so passionate about exercise.”

Jo Whiley is an ambassador for the Benecol Every Heart Deserves One campaign, raising awareness of the importance of regular cholesterol testing in partnership with Heart UK.

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