Everywhere you look these days there seems to be someone urging you to get fit. But the more that happens the more evidence suggests that we are doing exactly the opposite. Why this is so seems unclear, but one theory could be that taking exercise can be just so boring.

Never having joined a gym myself, the whole experience of running or cycling on the spot while gawping at a TV screen almost seems Orwellian.

If you are going to run or cycle, then why not do just that, see the countryside and pay virtually nothing?

Then again, there are those who have a genuine reason for structured fitness programmes, either as sportsmen, or for general health reasons.

On the face of it, boxing does not seem like the healthiest way of doing that but in fact appearances are once again deceptive.

Carrying out a training regime coached by a boxing professional is a structured, controlled and most importantly interesting, way of taking exercise.

John Houston recently set up Box-Fit PT in South Moreton, near Didcot, with the aim of offering people from all walks of life an alternative to the gym in the form of whitecollar boxing.

Whitecollar boxing started in the United States and has been successfully running at gyms in London where Mr Houston has worked.

It can involve keen individuals taking the sport all the way to properly organised fights, or can simply be a regular workout using boxing techniques.

Training Mr Houston, 35, has been boxing since he was 14 and was involved in about 40 amateur bouts, winning 30 of them.

Significantly, he has also worked at gyms from New York to New Zealand, where he became interested in training.

He said: "Whitecollar opens boxing up to everybody. Even if you are 45, there is a level for you."

So far, Mr Houston has seen a wide variety of people sign up for classes at his gym, including tennis players, rowers and rugby players.

And it is not just men Mr Houston reckons 35 per cent of his clients are women.

One of them is Heather McGregor, a 44-year-old mother of three, who lives in South Moreton but works at London recruitment firm Taylor Bennett.

She started boxing three years ago in London but was delighted when Mr Houston opened his gym on her doorstep.

She said:"I found exercising very dull and this was a good way of relieving the boredom. It is a fantastic workout and a lot better than sitting on machines in the gym.

"I find I sleep more soundly, have more energy and can concentrate better."

Ms McGregor has no intention of entering the ring for a competitive bout, although she does admit to having become interested in boxing as a sport, since taking it up.

Another client is Ian McWhirter, who runs the Bloomers restaurant in Wallingford, and is a keen tennis player, taking part in a tournament at a club in Marbella, Spain.

Mr McWhirter, 42, said: "John mentioned the Spanish Tennis Federation sent a lot of their players to boxing training.

"I tried it and found the footwork and all-round fitness incredibly similar, and it made a world of difference when I played in the tournament in Spain. It added another ten per cent to my game.

"John is good at finding your level and explaining what is required and he is an expert at working with certain muscle groups."

Mr Houston invested £20,000 in setting up and equipping the gym and already has about 20 regulars paying £25 each for an individual workout, or £10 for a squad session.

Training revolves around stance, movement, punches and combinations, taken up to competition level if necessary, although inflicting pain is not on the agenda. Mr Houston said: "With boxing you are always battling against negative preconceptions.

"It is an art form about scoring points everybody looks after everybody else."

As well as fitness, Mr Houston also offers advice on diet, recommending clients to eat organic, non-processed foods.

But working so close to his Wallingford home for the first time in 12 years has meant Mr Houston is also feeling a few benefits, especially as he is not commuting to London.

He said: "It's a beautiful area and I have been lucky enough to turn my passion into my living."

n Contact John Houston on 07981 328326 or see www.boxfitpt.com