Catalysing the culture of fitness within communities
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed our lives. Staying fit and active has become more important than ever before. The relationship between strong immunity and physical activity is scientifically proven.
Over the last few years, we have heard that people have become more self-aware of the benefits associated with a healthy lifestyle. However, the truth is very different from what we hear. In India, a sizeable number of people do not participate in sports or fitness activities, due to a lack of motivation and unavailability of time. One of the surveys conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) shows that 4 out of 10 Indians are physically inactive. It also means that 41.3% of Indians are not getting the recommended level of physical activity (PA) — 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week — as per the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to a survey, an ordinary Indian spent approximately 5 hours in sedentary activities on a normal day. Sitting, resting, watching television, using a computer, playing online games on mobile phones, and talking with friends are the most common activities. Desk jobs in an office context make it worse. Data also shows that, despite the Indian government’s push for yoga, only 3.5% of adult males and females were practising yoga.
It has also been observed that a lack of physical activity contributes to more than 5 million deaths annually. Furthermore, insufficient physical activity increases the risk of death by 20 to 30%.
Lack of exercise, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption increase the risk of death from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which accounts for 71% of global deaths each year.
The statistics from various reputed sources were enough to set off alarms through national health response structures, which are now educating people to incorporate healthy lifestyles into their lives.
The WHO also recognises physical inactivity as a global health concern - with more than one-fourth of adults failing to meet the recommended levels of physical activity. It has now asked member countries to reduce physical inactivity by up to 10% nationally by 2025.
During the pandemic, when access to playgrounds and other fitness activities was limited, a Mumbai-based NGO, Salaam Bombay Foundation, provided digital fitness training for 1656 resource-poor adolescents studying in municipal and government-aided schools. For these students, devices like mobile phones and software like Zoom and MS Teams become their new "virtual playground" for learning and training. Students were able to learn and practise various components of physical fitness. On the completion of training, selected students, termed "Fitness Monitors," are currently working in the slum communities to develop the culture of fitness and sports amongst the people.
The "Fitness Monitors" have been conducting sessions for more than 622 community members across the different locations in Mumbai. Their target is to reach and train more than 5000 community members each year.
These Fitness Monitors believe communities that participate in sports and fitness develop strong social bonds. People who perform daily physical activity are generally healthier and happier. The future will be a chain fitness reaction that will be require people to motivate each other to take up fitness in the community.
Kalpesh Waikar holds a Masters in Physical Education and Sports Management. With over 15 years of experience in the field of sports and fitness, he is currently working with Salaam Bombay Foundation as senior manager. He specialises in strength and conditioning and sports curriculum development.