IN Summer, a middle-aged man’s thoughts turn to the gym. I jest, you think. But there’s no doubt that, watching lithe fellows leap about at the footer and tennis, one’s mind turns to getting into shape.

The distressing train of thought isn’t helped by perusing the public prints, which frequently publish stories and pictures of celebrities hitting the gym, even in the heat. Thus, recently, we had Sylvester Stallone “looking good” as he continues working out at the age of 72.

So-called Sly has another Rocky movie – the eighth! – in the pipeline and writes: “Time to get into action movie shape!” A picture on yon Instagram shows him doing chin-ups. Fine, I can do two of these. But Sly is doing his with a 100lb weight suspended from his waist.

Also pictured at the weekend was much-loved actor Hugh Laurie, star of House and now aged 59, though he was only shown going home (on a peculiar scooter-skateboard thing) from the gym. There’s no actual proof that he did anything in it.

My memory of such places is that a lot of folk positioned themselves on the seat of a fairly fearsome looking piece of equipment – then spent the entire session texting their pals.

I’m sure Hugh did more than that, since he’s looking hale at 59. The urgent newspaper bulletin told us that he was wearing “white sports socks pulled up to his calves” (not sure where else they would go) and carrying “a khaki green rucksack on his back” (excellent choice of anatomy for such an accessory).

It added: “The comedian’s hair flapped in the breeze as he scooted along the pavement in the sunshine.” Whoa! Way too much detail.

Certainly, this is not the level of detail one would find in the increasingly unhinged Guardian newspaper, which in a severe instance of Trump Derangement Syndrome, recently featured the headline: “I stopped going to the gym because of Trump. Now I can’t open jars.”

Perhaps all the right-wing jibes about liberals being “beta-males” are correct, after all. Except, being The Guardian, the writer in this instance was a woman.

I must say I stopped going to the gym too, but I can’t remember it having anything to do with Donald Trump. I don’t recall thinking: “America has elected a loon as leader, therefore I am not going to exercise ever again.”

Actually, I do exercise pretty much daily – loosely speaking, as in, you know, weekly or monthly – but generally I just do push-ups on the floor or wave my arms above my head in a vigorous manner.

I stopped going to the gym because, when Her Majesty’s Government appealed to the nation to play its part in practising austerity, I volunteered immediately and scrapped my gym membership along with my satellite television, football season ticket, cinema card, health insurance, charity donations, Amazon Prime, and several other little direct debits along the way.

Now I have nothing in my life and am expecting a medal in the post from HM’s G any day now. I used to belong to the cooncil gym until, slowly, I started to notice that it cost three times what other establishments charge, and the chances of getting into a class were nearly zero.

Of late, encouraged by all these uplifting tales of celebrity exertions, I’ve started thinking about signing up to one of these cheap gyms (“bring your own equipment”) and may well do so when the Age of Austerity is finally declared over and citizens take to the streets in celebration just like on VE Day. Another victory for Britain.

The question is: does the gym do any good? I packed it in about three years ago and haven’t noticed much difference to my physique. Other chaps have reported the same. They get married, have bairns and never get another minute to themselves, never mind an hour down the gym, and they don’t look any different than when they were exercising three times a week.

Perhaps it’s a mental thing. At least, in packing it in, one doesn’t have to suffer the bicep-brandishing mentalists that, inevitably, one finds down the gym. This column has previously calculated that, in any gathering of 7.82 Earthlings, approximately 1.26 will be nutters.

And then there’s all that Heath-Robinson equipment. You make yourself seated in preparation for a mild kneading of your abs and, next thing, find yourself suspended upside-down with your legs and arms flailing hither and also yon. Or maybe that’s just me.

If I was me, instead of waiting for austerity to end, I might give serious consideration – without committing myself, obviously – to returning to the gym if England win the World Cup. If they lose, I won’t give it another thought.