Getting fit in middle age: a marathon addict, a couch potato and others share their pain

People who improve their lifestyles in middle age can expect a healthier retirement, according to a new government campaign. Five writers reveal their struggles and triumphs 
I can’t really pinpoint what started me off worrying about my health. One minute I seemed to be happily careering through life, Marlboro Menthol in one hand, gin and tonic in the other, treating anyone who took exercise with the total disdain they evidently deserved; the next thing I knew, I’d turned into a walking library of quiet neuroses about everything: how much I smoked, how much I drank, what I weighed. Especially what I weighed. I’d been incredibly skinny my whole life, then I hit my 40s and put on the best part of three stone. It wouldn’t have mattered had it been evenly distributed but it all went on my stomach. My arms and legs were still incredibly skinny. Increasingly, my youngest daughter’s drawings of me – pea-sized head balanced on enormous circular body, lines for limbs – looked less like a four year old trying to grapple with concepts of space and representation in the pre-schematic stage of development than a photorealist portrait.

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