The former centre-back is in the shape of his life, never shy of sharing his regime with fans on social media, but he reveals to Men’s Health that his motivation is far from vanity.
Ferdinand reveals his motivation to hit the gym so hard is about finding something close to the mind-clearing impact playing football used to bring.
He adds that his fitness work has helped him cope with the devastating 2015 passing of his wife, Rebecca, after a battle with breast cancer.
“[The gym] enabled me to free my mind,” Ferdinand reveals in a wide-ranging interview with Men’s Health’s The Body Issue 2017.
“You’ve got to remember, when I played football, when I’d step onto the pitch, there was nothing I thought about but football. It was a clear space, a little release time.
“Without the gym, I don’t know where I would’ve had that release time – that time just to think about nothing, or to think about something other than what was going on in my life.
“The gym really played a part in that, and that’s why I’ve clung onto it.
“For me it’s a place where your mind gets to take a break for a bit.
“I’m simply happier when I’m in the gym and working out, and I think everything else flows better when I’m doing that. It invigorates me and calms me at the same time.
“I think you’ve got to find something in your life that can help you take your mind off the stresses that hold you back. Fitness has been that something [for me].”
Ferdinand is so passionate about the impact physical well-being has had on his life that it could even spark a future career opportunity in helping others with fitness and nutrition.
But he doesn’t want any Rio brand fitness programme to be for the elite.
“I’d like to help others get to the place where I am,” he says.
“Where I think: ‘This is great, this is my lifestyle now.’
“It isn’t a chore. It isn’t about watching a gram of protein here or a gram of fat there.
“And you don’t have to have a ready-made gym in your house. I want it to be something that’s really smooth and fits into your lifestyle.”
Ferdinand’s post-football life, along with working as a pundit for BT Sport, has been spent as a mental health campaigner.
The heart-rending BBC documentary, Being Mum and Dad, in which he opened up about life after the death of his wife, struck a chord with many – especially men, he hoped, who are reluctant to open up about their feelings.
“There’s this machismo that comes out,” he tells Men’s Health.
“Feelings and emotions are not seen as something that’s macho enough to talk about.
“There’s a taboo there and that was a part of the documentary that we wanted to explore and break down a bit. Men need to learn how to speak and to open themselves up.
It’s OK to feel vulnerable at times.”
The full interview appears in the August 2017 issue of Men’s Health, on sale Tuesday, July 4