Liquid-lunchers versus the iron-pumpers

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The Independent Online
Whether they sweat it out on a stair master or sink a few pints down the pub at lunchtime, most nineties' men are the same in one respect. Health matters to them - at least in theory. Even your die-hard liquid-luncher murmurs about how he should do more exercise, quit smoking and cut down on the beers.

Beyond that, it comes down to those who take their health by the horns and head for the gym, versus those who opt for a more traditional lunch break.

To Peter Pontidas, a trip to the doctor's surgery spells trouble. "I'd have to be very ill to compensate for the hassle of going to a GP. A lot of times, going is a waste of time. If I had `flu I would just go to the chemist and get some Night Nurse, rather than queue up for two hours," said the 35-year-old banker, all set to heave another weight to the sky at Holmes Place Health Club in the City.

While John Cuthbert, 47, an accountant, is well aware of the benefits of getting a handle on his health (he hasn't had a day off sick since he started going to the gym every lunchtime three years ago) regular screening is out of the question. "No, I wouldn't go for a check-up. I don't think they are necessary. I know my heart's all right and I'm not that worried about cancer."

One relatively recent convert to the Holmes Place fitness factory, Ted Coffin, 41, a manager at BT, is thankful he landed up in a "well man" clinic. It was his first check-up, two years ago. "The GP told me to give up smoking and take more exercise. The problem the GP had was that even though I was a heavy smoker I had a huge lung capacity but I thought: `I'm heading towards 40, let's hold it (ill health) off for a few years. I've gone from being below average to quite healthy. I don't get tired anymore and feel much more confident about myself."

In the smoke-filled Lord Raglan pub down the road, men are downing Guinness with as much gusto as their fitness friends are pumping iron. But raise the subject of health and they look sheepish, their consciences pricked.

Mike Harris, an IT consultant in the City, worries about his health. He even subscribes to Men's Health magazine. But that doesn't stop him smoking and drinking his way through his lunch break. "At my sort of age you have to consider how you're going to stay healthy. Men's Health has useful articles on everything from the old prostate problems to you name it. I've heard you can go to a well man clinic, but I don't know how to get in touch with one. If I did, I'd probably go for a check-up."

Likewise, he would like to take more exercise, but can't find the time or money. "I want to do it . . . it's finding the time to do it. It costs pounds 2,000 to pounds 3,000 a year to join a squash club or a gym in the City, so it doesn't seem worth it."

Sunning himself outside, Peter O'Hagan is the exception. Sound in wind and limb, Mr O'Hagan, an investment banker, believes he will stay that way. "I don't really worry about my health. I'm healthy as far as I know," said Mr O'Hagan, 29, an investment banker.

"I know all this thing about cancer and so forth but my family are all smokers. The last member of my family to die, my grandfather, was 95 and he had smoked all his life."

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