“What is your fitness goal?” Do not be surprised if you come across this query often nowadays. From ‘hot bod’ to ‘dad bod’, society is in a state of transmuted fixation with ‘transformed’ bodies, health turnarounds, and the ‘perfect’ mix of food in diet regimes. Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and closer home, actresses like Disha Patani have been ‘celebrated’ for flaunting ‘perfect abs’. Actors like Leonardo Di Caprio have received both bouquets and brickbats for unabashedly ‘celebrating‘ dad bods.
Welcome, to an age of experimentation, where the momentum to rediscover lost vigour, vitality, and energy of the spring of youth has been regained. Nowadays, people are leaving no stone unturned in order to achieve a ‘perfect’ state of happiness, which, for some, is defined by looking ‘forever young and fit‘. Salons, gymnasiums, health centers, healing therapies, everything is available under the sky, and one can choose from a range of fitness products to get the ‘go-get it‘ image. The obsession with health and health products has not left the government untouched, as fitness is tied with the agenda of making India a ‘re-energised’ nation. Physical activities like Yoga and other techniques are fast becoming a part of fitness routines. Yoga is fashionable. World leaders like Vladimir Putin chose to remain ‘in the know’ by opting for adventurous exploits and promoting new fitness techniques.
Now, we also come across new-fangled fitness gadgets to cater to the fitness ‘streak’ in us. Not many, however, agree with this notion.
Fitness mantras are available there for one and all. A new technique, ‘intermittent fasting’, has caught on. Under this fasting routine, one can go on a 12-hour, 16-hour, or an 18 hour-long fasting window, and this is supposed to lead to visible weight loss results. From herbs, fashionable spices, stamina-enhancing drugs, to trying long-lost recipes, anything and everything is being tried.
Is this a passing ‘fad’ or is it a reflection of the always-alive quest to conquer nature and try to reverse, or at least slow, the process of aging as proclaimed by renowned companies? The bottom line is, the health industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and is growing with each passing day. For now, the reality is that from Hoshiarpur to Shillong, from Srinagar to Kanyakumari, the beauty industry thrives and multiplies. The beauty, health and fitness industry is raking in currency notes aplenty. As per this report by Praxis and YourNest Venture Capital, the sports, fitness and wellness market in India is expected to grow to 90 billion dollars by the year 2022.
To start with, ancient societies were not totally devoid of health-related ‘indulgences‘. It is said that ancient Greeks not only “trained for sports and to improve their military skills, but they also trained to attain and maintain an idealised body shape.” Two prominent gymnasia of ancient Greece were ‘Lyceum’ and ‘Academy’. ‘Gymnasium’ is said to have been an important social institution which attracted men of all ages. The word ‘gymnasium’ means a ‘place to exercise naked’. Mythology is replete with stories of ‘fountain of youth’. Ponce de Leon, a Spanish conquistador, is said to have discovered what, in St.Augustine and Melbourne Beach in Florida, is now famously known as the “fountain of youth”.
Browse any television channel, read any newspaper or magazine, and you will be inundated by advertisements on health and fitness products. Is fenugreek good for diabetes? Can thyroid be cured by eating raw garlic? Is there a permanent cure for arthritis? Is green tea beneficial for weight loss? Do honey and lemon saccharine water have proven health benefits? Does eating raw seeds of bitter gourd bring manifold health reliefs. All of this, I feel, remains a matter of speculation and persistent enquiry, even as science makes attempts to dispel food-related myths. Is humanity attempting to reverse the ageing process, a natural biological phenomenon? Can we really succeed in completely obliterating scars and acnes for all times to come in the way claimed by reputed cosmetic brands like Revlon, L’Oreal and more? Perhaps, it is wishful thinking, but I feel we are satisfied with dwelling in temporary ‘euphoria’.
Are we seeking some kind of elusive ‘ambrosia’ of life? With the infusion of comfort products in our life, lifestyles have considerably altered for a section of the population. ‘Transformation’ stories published in the media keep interest in fitness ‘goals’ alive and kicking. For example, Sylvester Stallone, and Brie Larson, of Captain Marvel fame, figure in the list of notable celebrity transformations in Hollywood, and actors like Hrithik Roshan and Aamir Khan from Bollywood.
This new culture of health and fitness obsession is also not without pitfalls. One, it is giving a free run to charlatans and frauds to mint money by selling false spirituality and fitness goals. Fake gym trainers and ‘Babas’ who claim to ‘reset’ the body clock and spiritually heal a person, also abound by the dozens. Secondly, it is leading to a discriminatory scenario where ‘fat-shaming’ and ‘body-shaming’ is becoming an everyday occurrence. Actor Zarine Khan was recently body shamed for posting a photo on Instagram showing stretch marks.This is an alarming development and has serious repercussions.
I strongly feel that fitness goals are good as long as they serve the prospect of maintenance of health, but these may turn harmful if done to outscore or outdo someone.
So long! I bid adieu for now, and embark to observe my daily quota of a ‘humble walk’ wondering if the old adage “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” still holds true.