Rosemary Conley on how fitness saved her life and why it’s never too late to start exercising

Rosemary Conley is still fit and active in her 70sRosemary Conley is still fit and active in her 70s
Rosemary Conley is still fit and active in her 70s
​The original diet and exercise guru talks about leading fitness classes at 76, and why asthma and arthritis haven’t held her back.

Rosemary Conley has a huge amount to thank fitness for.

Not only has it brought her fame, fortune and happiness, she credits it with helping save her life, too.

“When I was two, I developed asthma.

"I was really very poorly as a child, and my parents were told I was unlikely to live beyond 10 years old,” says Conley.

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“Thankfully, and obviously, I’ve lived a lot longer than that!”

Conley shot to fame with her Hip And Thigh Diet in 1988, later launching a nationwide chain of franchised Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness Clubs.

These became one of the "big three" alongside Slimming World and Weight Watchers but the distinguishing feature of the clubs was that in addition to diet advice the classes offered a 45-minute aerobic workout with a trained instructor.

Now 76, she has made very good use of the ‘extra’ time she’s had.

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As well as her clubs, which went into administration in 2014, she’s written a plethora of books, made regular TV and video appearances – and even now still teaches exercise classes and keeps herself extremely fit.

Conley, who lives with her second husband Mike Rimmington in Leicestershire, continues to see a lung specialist regularly – and says he told her if she hadn’t become a fitness trainer, her life story would be very different.

“I’ve been teaching fitness for 50 years, and it’s been good fortune that I turned into a career of fitness, which has developed my lungs,” she reflects.

“My specialist cannot believe that I do what I do with the lungs I have.”

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She now has monthly injections of a new biologic asthma drug, which has “dramatically extended” her breathing capacity, as well as taking four inhalers every day, plus a bronchodilator.

“Right through my life, with inhalers, tablets, etc, I’ve managed my asthma,” she says.

“I’ve never been hospitalised with it, but it has very much been there. I’ve had to have steroids occasionally.

"I’ve had pneumonia, I’ve had chest infections, and my body will react badly if I get a really bad cold.”

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She also has the chronic lung condition bronchiectasis, which damages the airways and can cause excessive mucus.

“It all sounds incredibly gloomy, but I have to tell you, I’ve led an incredibly full life,” she says.

“I still teach classes, I go for personal training twice a week, and I do a ballet class on a Friday.

"Normally, I walk for 30 minutes every morning as well.

“I work well in the gym, I really do,” Conley adds.

“I invest myself in my fitness because I want to live – I want to live as long as I can possibly drag every year out of my life!”

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The remarkable pensioner proudly states that she has blood pressure of 120/60:

“At 76 years old, that’s not bad!”

But although she’s very slim and fit now, she has had her own weight problems in the past, she points out.

After suffering from gallstones, she adopted a low-fat diet as an alternative to surgery, and the resulting fat-loss inspired her to promote the diet to others

“I struggled to maintain my weight for quite a while, and it was when I discovered low-fat eating in 1986 that my whole life changed as far as food was concerned, because I found I could eat quite well and lose weight.”

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The Rosemary Conley approach is characterised by a low-fat diet regime.

Conley's The Hip and Thigh Diet is a low-fat spot-reducing diet and exercise programme that promoted the idea that it could help people lose fat from the hips and thighs.

However, medical experts do not believe that "this or any other diet and exercise programme can help you shed fat from some parts of your body but not others."

Conley became internationally famous in 1988 via her book The Hip & Thigh Diet, which went on to sell over two million copies

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“It was a huge international bestseller, it made me famous,” she says. “It was very appropriate then, it’s not particularly appropriate now.

"I still bang the drum for low-fat, even though it’s completely unfashionable.

"I still eat a low-fat diet myself, absolutely.”

She says she “absolutely never” eats takeaways, declaring: “I think they’re unhealthy.

"I really am a firm believer that we should try and cook our own food so we know what’s in it, and if we did, we’d feel so much better.”

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Born in 1946, Conley attended Bushloe High School in Leicestershire and Goddards Secretarial College in Leicester.

She then studied for an RSA in Exercise to Music.

After losing weight herself, Conley began by running evening classes for local women looking to lose weight in 1972, under the name the Slimming & Good Grooming Club.

She established a number of slimming clubs, which she later sold to IPC for £50,000, working for the company to oversee the expansion of the club network.

From 1993 - 2014 Conley had a franchised network of clubs.

The franchise expanded to 180 clubs by 2004, with 80,000 members.

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In 2012 she appeared on the TV show Dancing on Ice with professional skater Mark Hanretty.

In 1999, Conley was appointed as deputy lieutenant of Leicestershire. In 2001, she became the first woman to be granted the Freedom of the City of Leicester. She was appointed a CBE in 2004.

Despite her age, she has no plans to hang up her trainers, and is still full of infectious enthusiasm about the classes she teaches and their loyal members – some of whom are even older than she is.

“I do two classes every Monday night, I’ve been doing them for 50 years, and I have many members who’ve been coming for over 40 years and they’re still coming every week, bless them. I love them! “They’re fitness classes, and we do some aerobics and some strength work, and I have three people who are over 80, and about 10 people in their mid-70s.

"We’ve all grown old together.”

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Attending her weekly gym and ballet sessions help keep her core muscles strong, she notes – and she does all this despite the fact she has arthritis in her feet and hands.

“I’ve got a knee injury at the moment, and arthritic feet, but I can normally manage my arthritic feet with paracetamol, and exercise – it’s so important you move when you’ve got arthritis,” Conley stresses.

“It’s in my hands too, but they’re not painful, whereas my feet are painful.”

She’s determined to share her keep-fit message with other older people – in 2021, she even launched a new website (, designed to help the over-60s live longer, healthier, happier lives.

“It’s about lifestyle,” says Conley.

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“You’ve got to find a way to make one or two decisions, like stop snacking, for example.”

Of course, she believes exercise is crucial whatever your age, and for people just starting a fitness journey, she suggests it’s always a good idea to simply go for a walk.

“It’s free, it’s healthy, it’s good for your legs, it’s good for your heart and lungs.

"And if you’re feeling fitter, then find a walk with a bit of a hill in it, and that’s even better.

“It’s never, ever too late to change your lifestyle.

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"If people in their 80s start exercising, the benefit will be enormous,” Conley enthuses. “With the right attitude and a love for life, it’s amazing what can be achieved.”

Rosemary Conley is an ambassador for Asthma + Lung UK. For more information on lung conditions, call their helpline on 0300 222 5800 or visit