The broadcaster is no stranger to risk, but he doesn’t take chances with his health – at home or in the wild
You look a picture of health – has it always been this way?
Until I was 30 I never felt the need to exercise or watch what I ate. But as soon as I entered my fourth decade, I realised I needed to put a little more effort into looking after myself.
How has your diet changed over the years?
I’ve tried to reduce my dairy and meat consumption. I think as a nation we probably consume a little too much of both. Surprisingly, my health has improved over the years.
You’ve done some extreme challenges. How do you alter your diet to prepare for them?
For long-haul endurance challenges, such as rowing the Atlantic, racing to the South Pole or running the six-day Marathon Des Sables, I’ve had to gain weight. During the challenges, I burn upwards of 6,000 calories a day, so it’s important to start with a good body weight.
How do you stay super fit when you’re not doing a challenge?
As hard as it is, I try to find an hour for exercise every day. It’s as much for my brain as it is for my body. A run, the gym, a workout in a hotel room or on a forest floor… There’s always a way.
It must be hard to eat well on the move. What are the best healthy foods you’ve discovered on your adventures?
Travelling as much as I do means it’s too easy just to graze on junk, so I make a point of planning ahead with healthier alternatives. I rate Eat Natural bars. I also helped to produce a range of pulse-based snacks called Dilly & Wolf.
Which food do you miss the most when you’re away?
It’s usually the comfort foods, such as pasta dishes – I love spaghetti bolognese.
What are your guilty food pleasures?
Crisps and chips. Call me a typical Brit, but I find a bag of salt and vinegar crisps almost irresistible.
Have your tastes changed at all?
Apparently taste buds change every seven years – and I’m finding myself increasingly turning away from meat.
Do you stick with healthy eating and safe alcohol drinking levels?
Not at all, but I do keep an eye on things. Like most people, a second helping/bigger portion is always a temptation. My philosophy is to eat and drink everything in moderation, and to ensure an hour’s exercise every day to counter it.
We hear you’re doing your bit to help save the bees…
Indeed. Ever since I spent a year living off the land for the BBC series Castaway, I’ve found myself worrying about the environment. Keeping bees is a simple, fun and fascinating way of doing my small bit. And my kids love them.
If you’re making a healthy supper for the family, what will it be?
Roasted fresh fish with rice or quinoa and raw vegetables, and a glass of still water. They love it.
Do you have any recurring health issues?
I’m particularly prone to colds – it’s probably all the air travel I do (I think air conditioning is the main problem). I’ve recently tried cold water remedies: cold plunge pools, cold showers, cold baths, etc. They’re supposed to boost the immune system and so far they seem to be working.
Do you swear by any particular ingredient for your good health?
Taking echinacea seems to do the trick when a cold is approaching. But again, I believe in everything in moderation.
Any part of your body you wish was leaner?
I have the biggest calves and bottom! I used to hate them, but I’ve come to realise they both serve me rather well.
Any more challenges coming up – and any you wouldn’t do?
I always like to have physical goals and I have several plans for next year. But I think BASE jumping [leaping off buildings or cliffs, etc] is a risk too far. There have been too many deaths this year alone.
Do you worry about your children’s diets?
Of course. A lot of food is laced with invisible sugar and salt. There’s too much temptation everywhere you go. Walk into any petrol station and it tells the tale of our food – junk food and fizzy drinks are prolific. It’s all sugar and artificial ingredients and no emphasis on health.
Tell us a surprising fact about you that people may not know…
I have a low resting heart rate of between 35 and 45 beats per minute. I inherited it from my grandfather. It’s quite useful.
Three things I love
THE SEA There is something magical about the sea. It’s calming, fascinating, and keeps you healthy, too. I love paddle boarding, kayaking and swimming. But I’m just as happy on a boat, staring into the water to see what marine treasures I can spot. Wonderful.
FAMILY WALKS These are sacred to me. My family are the most important thing in my life, and these shared experiences are to be treasured. It’s great to be close to nature and stay fit at the same time.