ONE OF the funniest cartoons I saw last year depicted an overweight, slobby-looking man slumped in an armchair, a cigarette in his mouth, a slice of pizza in one hand and glass of wine in the other. On the floor beside him sat a take-away box and a can of beer.

His wife, in the opposite armchair, was reading the paper: ‘This will cheer you up. Joe Wicks is back,’ she says.

Who doesn’t know Joe Wicks, the fitness coach whose workouts during lockdown made him a household name. Heard of him before that? Me neither.

I don’t move in fitness circles. Anyone whose cv includes the words ‘high intensity training’ - Joe Wicks’ speciality - is light years beyond my sphere of interest.

I became allergic to workouts at my first aerobics class. It took place in 1987 at the famous Pineapple Studios in London’s Covent Garden, where I’d gone after work with my friend Mandy.

From the outset I couldn’t keep up and felt like a hippo in a sea of gazelles. It didn’t help that Mandy was a former dancer on cruise ships. You get the picture.

Over the years since then I’ve joined a number of number of fitness classes and gyms and experienced the same feeling of discomfort and awkwardness.

Now, the very thought of doing something like that again terrifies me.

I am far from alone - in fact, post-lockdown, there are more of us than ever. People whose fitness levels slipped during the pandemic are now suffering from ‘FOWO’, otherwise known as Fear Of Working Out. I know it well.

Gym chain Fitness First says that Covid ruined many people’s exercise regimes, with nearly half of those polled saying they are still stuck in ‘fitness doldrums’. And while one-in-five bought exercise equipment for use at home, only five per cent said they were still using it a year on. Nearly half said lack of motivation was behind their reluctance to get back to the gym, while 35 per cent cited a lack of confidence.

Why don’t they just come out and admit they don’t enjoy ‘working out’. The very phrase suggests something laborious, something you don’t really want to do but feel you have to. It’s a box to be ticked.

Among the people I know who are members of a gym, most seem to drag themselves there. “I’ve got to go to the gym this afternoon,” they say in a resigned, rather pitiful voice, as though they’re about to have a colonoscopy.

My youngest daughter is about to cancel her monthly subscription for a gym she hasn’t been to in months and admits she has never enjoyed attending.

Now society is opening up again, people want to get back to a new routine, but with their morale and motivation shattered, they are struggling to find a roadmap back to fitness.’, said Tim Andrews of Fitness First.

With apologies to Fitness First, I’ve got a suggestion to make: ditch the gym, abandon the workouts. Do something in the fresh air. Start with a short walk or a cycle ride. Do some gardening. Being outside will make you feel ten times better. If I haven’t had a walk, even a short one, during the day I feel groggy.

If you’re up to it, have a game of tennis or cricket in a local park, or jog around it. You’ll feel better, you’ll certainly sleep better and if it’s sunny you’ll soak up all that vitamin D.

In the first lockdown that’s exactly what people did. Riverside paths had never been busier and people seemed to embrace the outdoors. I saw more walkers and cyclists than ever before. Didn’t everyone look healthier and happier? That’s what we need to get back to.