Jim Duffy: Getting fit in your 50s costs an arm and a leg

Muscles are built in the kitchen, not the gym it seems, says Duffy. Picture: Contributed.
Muscles are built in the kitchen, not the gym it seems, says Duffy. Picture: Contributed.
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Taking regular exercise seems to be the best advice we can get from medical practitioners and health to optimise our chances of good health in our golden years. Many experts preach 30 minutes a day.

This can range from a brisk walk to a High Intensity Interval Training session. Some say that aerobic exercise like cycling, spinning and good old “legs, bums and tums” will do the trick. But the latest ­wisdom to keep us alive longer and in good spec lies in a tougher form of exercise. It is called resistance training. And it ain’t cheap...

There is a multitude of gyms to choose from. All the usual suspects that are not “manned”, but have personal trainers on board to help you, if you are willing to pay. These are fairly inexpensive membership gyms at around £15 a month. For those who like fully employed staff who actually say hello to you and make sure you have a towel, you can expect to pay £50 and upwards. Yet the membership is not the pricey part of this form of training. It’s the supplements and foods required to make it all worthwhile.

As a fairly new member to the quinquagenarian club, I read with some dismay that my testosterone is diminishing day by day. This is not good for weight loss, belly fat and saggy muffin tops. To research this, I sat and watched men and women of my age group promenade up and down a shopping centre. It is, of course, summer so they were wearing appropriate ­clothing. Clothing that unfortunately revealed the truth. Of the 50 or so unwitting participants, 90 per cent were carrying too much weight and exhibiting too much belly fat to boot. Maybe the gurus were right. Once we hit 50 it all goes south and in order to get back to looking, say, 35, some real effort is needed.

Joining a gym has been no problem. The barrier to entry is tiny these days. Sign your life away on the terms and conditions page and set up your direct debit. But, in order to benefit from resistance training, I would have to honestly look at my diet and what I needed to include.

Muscles are built in the kitchen, not the gym it seems. The first thing I had to do was buy some whey protein. This is a fast acting potion that I take after a work out (or, indeed, before). A tub of decent whey protein can cost upwards of £50. But, there are proteins and there are proteins. To put this into perspective the global protein supplements market was valued at £11.4 billion in 2018, driven by the growing popularity of health and ­fitness centres and rising health consciousness among customers. It is not just protein in whey form; there is concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate. All with various costs attached.

To boost testosterone and get the muscles back to fighting form, I need to include branch chain amino acids either with my protein or as an added supplement. Stick on another £30 for a tub of these bad boys.

What about regular food? Salmon, chicken, tuna and lean beef are all very much art and part of the body building diet. I need to be getting more than 120 grams a day of protein for a mixture of all of these. That means two salmon breasts, two scoops of whey protein, a lean beef burger and some nuts to snack on like cashews or almonds. All in all about £15 a day between decent food that is not processed and supplements I am told I need. A quick ­calculation and we are at £450 a month on “clean food” just to help me process what I do in the gym into some muscle.

A cheap gym membership may just be the start of your financial woes if you decide to get serious about stubborn body fat and building a little muscle. But, don’t think it will all be done in six months. If you really want some shape then a good two years is needed to look 50 and hot, which means forking out for food and supplements over a sustained period.

Be warned, getting ripped doesn’t come cheaply. Perhaps that 30 minute walk will have just as much value?

- Jim Duffy MBE, Create Special