Louise Minchin: Former BBC TV presenter says “You can still do amazing things as you get older.”

With her 60th birthday now closer than her 50th, post-menopausal, fearless former BBC Breakfast host turned adrenaline junkie and weight-lifting author Louise Minchin explains why age is no barrier to living your best life.

Born in Hong Kong in 1968, Louise Minchin started her career on the BBC’s World Service before graduating to Radio 5 Live’s Drive and Breakfast shows. She eventually became the full-time co-host of Breakfast on BBC1 in 2011. Since leaving the programme in 2021 she’s appeared on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and has taken up endurance sport. She has two daughters with her husband David and lives in Cheshire.

Louise Minchin, former BBC Breakfast Presenter and Author

Louise Minchin, former BBC Breakfast Presenter and Author

You turned 55 on your last birthday. How does it feel to now be closer to 60 than 50?

I feel that 55 is a good age. Fifty felt kind of significant; so significant that I tried to ignore it, but 55 I’m like, ‘Now I get it. I’m happy with it. And I’m trying not to think about that close to 60 thing.

How is ageing impacting you psychologically and emotionally?

Personally, as I’ve got older, I feel more confident. At 55 I think, ‘know what, I’ve made it here. I’ve not done everything brilliantly but for the next few years, I’d like to do them better. I feel like I want to do stuff well from now on and to do things that make a difference to other people, rather than me. It feels like it’s less about me now.

Physically how are you feeling?

I take my physical health much more seriously.  I think it’s really important to invest in your physical health, and by that, I mean strength really. Going forward, I want to be a person that is able to keep moving and to keep doing things. I don’t want to get to a point where I am a burden on other people.

Have your parents inspired your attitude towards good health?

Yes. I want to be like them. Dad’s 81 and he still works, and he still runs for the bus and my mum, who is approaching 80, does Pilates. I think it’s incumbent on all of us to make sure that we really look after ourselves now because I think you can lose that vitality and it’s really important not to.

How important is mental health to vitality in later life?

It’s pivotal. If you are engaged with something – whatever it is reading the news or playing bridge like my mother, just keeping your brain active is going to make you feel younger and make you enjoy life more. 

Presumably no longer getting up in the middle of the night to present BBC Breakfast has also been good for your health?

It wasn’t until I left in 2021 that I realised what a huge impact getting up at 3.46am on and off for 20 years was having on my physical health. I had an inkling, but I didn’t realise how deep the roots were. I was constantly exhausted, and I didn’t realise until I left, how exhausted I was. It’s taken me until only recently to catch up on all those years of missed sleep and the strangest thing is that I’ve never been a morning person. I’m a night owl.

Louise talking about her book, Fearless

Louise talking about her book, Fearless. Photo credit Instagram @louiseminchin

You’ve spoken quite a bit about your struggle with the menopause. How challenging was that period?

I genuinely thought I had some sort of early onset dementia because I was forgetting so much and doing things like putting my keys in the fridge and I was waking up two or three times a night with night sweats. Can you imagine having hot flushes in front of six million people? It was horrific.

The worst moment was when I was interviewing George Osbourne, and he was standing outside a JCB factory, and I just couldn’t say the letters JCB in the right order. I said any combination of the letters but not JCB. It was total brain fog and discombobulation, and I was mortified.

How did you get through it?

HRT changed my life and it’s also been great for several long-term health conditions such as heart disease, bone health and helping with Alzheimer’s.

Louise's book, Fearless Adventures with Extraordinary Women

Louise's book, Fearless Adventures with Extraordinary Women

Post menopause, are you feeling healthier, more focussed and more optimistic?

Totally. I feel good. I feel liberated. I feel stronger, better and now I’ve come out of the other side I feel empowered.

Most people reduce their physical exercise as they age but you’ve done the reverse…

I started my sporting journey aged 45 which I know is not when most people start and that’s what my book is about; exploring the stories of older women who’ve physically embraced ageing like Mimi Anderson, who is a grandmother who has just done an extraordinary 4400km bike ride from Turin to the North Cape of South Africa.

You can still do amazing things as you get older, and I also think that we’re lucky because you can make different choices when you’re older if perhaps you don’t have to work as much. If you’re retired that can be a license to do more adventurous stuff.

 

What’s your message to people who think age is a barrier to sport?

It doesn’t need to be. There are so many people who have taken up sport in later life and really enjoyed it, whether it’s swimming, doing the Three Peaks walk or even weightlifting, which I took up last year. I’m really proud of not what my body looks like, but what it can do.  I’m just really proud of what my 55-year-old body can do and hopefully it can continue, but you have to invest in it.

Has your happiness increased as you’ve got older?

My 55th birthday was one of my happiest birthdays ever. I spent time with my family. We went out for drinks and dinner and 55 feels like a good age and an age to sort of take a little bit of stock. I’ve had lots of different experiences both in broadcasting and in sport as well so it’s about working out how do I use those going forward?

Your two daughters are in their twenties. How are you feeling about potential impending grandparenthood?

I’m going to love grandparenthood because you can give them back can’t you! My two daughters have been the great joy of my life, so becoming a grandmother would be super exciting and that’s one of the reasons I’m so focussed on staying strong and fit so I can appreciate what’s to come.

  • Fearless Adventures with Extraordinary Women is out now, published by Bloomsbury.