Want to be fitter than James Bond?

He smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and spends most of his spare-time eating rich foods in fancy restaurants. So just how does James Bond maintain his freakish physical condition?

The opening parkour sequence of the 2006 film Casino Royale sees 007 vault a fence, sprint up a crane, leap onto scaffolding, run through a building site, jump onto a moving van, and engage in hand-to-hand combat. All while wearing a skin-tight Hawaiian shirt and a pair of chinos.

Parkour is an incredibly demanding, high-cardio activity. The sequence in Casino Royale actually took six weeks to film. Craig had to get into shape under the guidance of UK fitness expert Simon Waterson, who pushed the former-rugby-player-turned-actor through an intensive 45-minute workout from Monday to Friday, with an active 'rest' weekend of swimming and stretching.

Of course, this was only the regime followed by the actor who played Bond. The Bond of Ian Fleming's original fiction got most of his exercise between the sheets. Between 1953 and 1964 he enjoys getting jiggy with 14 women. Not bad at all, but nothing compared to his on-screen persona who gets to engage in horizontal gymnastics with 79 beautiful girls in the first 20 films.

In saying this, the literary version of Bond was still a pretty handy sportsman. Like his creator, Bond excelled on the school athletic track. He was also proficient at boxing, judo and golf (playing off a handicap of nine). Also like Fleming, Bond was an incredibly fearless skier, mastering the slopes in the Austrian Tyrol at Kitzbuhel. Fleming once skied into a fenced-off area where he was overtaken by an avalanche. This inspired the famous ski scene in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. And considering a typical day's skiing can burn up to 3000 calories, Bond must have been a very healthy physical specimen.

He was also a bloody good swimmer, able to swim “two miles without tiring”. In Live and Let Die he makes a dangerous underwater swim across Shark Bay to the island of SMERSH agent Mr Big. This sequence was motivated by Fleming's own scuba experience with the great Jacques Cousteau in 1953. Plus Fleming swam every morning in Jamaica where he had a holiday home – Goldeneye – on the north shore.

It isn't until From Russia with Love, Fleming's fifth Bond novel, that we discover a little of 007's daily exercise program. The spy rises in his Chelsea apartment and does 20 push-ups, “lingering over each one so that his muscles had no rest”.

“When his arms could stand the pain no longer, he rolled over on his back and, with his hands at his sides, did the straight leg-lift until his stomach muscles screamed. He got to his feet and, after touching his toes twenty times, went over to arm and chest exercises combined with deep breathing until he was dizzy.”


No doubt the dizziness may have been the result of the extra work his ticker has to do. Bond's medical report, released in Thunderball, reveals that 007's blood pressure is 160/90 (an average bloke of Bond's age should have a BP of closer to 125/82). It also states that he has frequent headaches, a spasm in his trapezius muscles, and drinks an average of half a bottle of spirits per day.

M is so concerned for his health that she sends him off to Shrublands health farm for two weeks, to eat a diet of yoghurt and soup and to cut down on his nicotine and alcohol consumption. Fleming tried the same thing himself, but to little avail.

According to Henry Chancellor in James Bond the Man and his World (Hodder, 2005): “Bond was always a younger and fitter man than his creator, but, whatever his physical achievements on the floor of his bedroom before breakfast, 007's fitness - like Fleming's - was blunted by his ration of 60 Morland Specials cigarettes a day.”

And sure, Bond was created at a time when the tobacco industry was lying through its yellowing teeth about the harmful effects of nicotine, but you've got to wonder how he managed to even catch his breath, let alone catch the baddies.

Then there was his questionable diet. It was hardly the stuff of sports nutrition, or so-called super-foods. Not an acacia berry in sight, let alone a protein shake. His favourite tucker was stone crabs, caviar, lobster, partridge and eggs benedict. In fact, Bond really loved eating eggs quite a lot, so you wouldn't have wanted to be trapped downwind of him in Dr No's mink-lined prison.

Usually his meals were washed down with a vodka martini, bourbon, champagne, or whatever other alcohol on which he could lay his trembling hands. Not content to get merely sloshed, he often added Benzedrine (an amphetamine) to his booze as a stimulant.

Fortunately for Bond, as a fictional hero he never reaches the age of 45 (when his 'licence to kill' will be revoked). It's just as well, because with a lifestyle like his, he would probably drop dead not long after. His creator, who enjoyed similar vices, had his first heart attack in 1961. The second one took him out in 1964. Fleming was just 56 years old.