Health: Are e-gyms effective? Here's a closer look
E-gyms are giving urban Indians access to affordable fitness programmes. But how effective are they? Let's go beyond the screen
In terms of physical fitness, India still has quite a bit of catching up to do. A national study by the Indian Council of Medical Research found that less than 10 per cent of Indians undertake any kind of physical activity, and that inactivity is the leading cause for one out of every two Indians being at a high risk of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiac conditions and cancer. Quite tellingly, the India appendix of Ericsson Mobility Report also lists India as a global leader in terms of the number of hours spent on smartphone usage (three hours and 18 minutes, on average), with smartphones also doubling up as portable video players for a majority of Indian consumers.
Amogh Kumar (aka Moghster), uses YouTube channels like BeerBiceps to figure his fitness routine
A new breed of fitness coaches is trying to fuse both ends of this spectrum, by making fitness content easily accessible to Internet video viewers in the country. These e-coaches have understood that the secret to getting Indians up and about is to bring fitness to them, in the comfort of their own homes, through a medium that they are already conversant in. Not surprisingly, fitness YouTube channels have been raking in views, subscribers and popularity. What's their secret?
Busy lifestyles, hectic schedules, an overall ambivalence towards physical exercise and a sore lack of scientifically accurate information are some of the factors keeping Indians away from achieving the body of their dreams. A pan-India survey conducted by Gympik, a fitness discovery platform, found that 53 per cent of respondents claimed that they lacked the time to exercise. Nearly 36 per cent did not have enough motivation to enrol at a fitness centre while 14 per cent were completely clueless about where to begin their fitness regime. In this scenario, e-gyms are gaining fans by offering the following:
Fitness trainer Riz Sunny, who is the host and founder of the YouTube channel My Bollywood Body, explains, "Beginners, especially, can feel discouraged and demotivated at the gym, when they are unable to perform movements and exercises that other, more experienced gym-goers can. My YouTube channel lets them begin their fitness journey in the comfort and privacy of their homes." Sunny's channel features a separate series of home workout videos for beginners, including nutrition plans and other motivational content. He even offers helpful DIY substitutes for basic equipment, like dumbbells (water bottles filled with sand can stand in for 2 kg dumbbells) for users keen to work on their bodies without breaking the bank.
For 22-year-old YouTuber Amogh Kumar (aka Moghster), channels like his favourite BeerBiceps helped him understand and apply international nutritional concepts, like the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting, to his own fitness routine. He says, "I had been going to the gym for two years, but I was seeking more specific information which local trainers weren't able to provide. I was also stuck in a skinny-fat phase, which was quite frustrating for me." He claims that discovering Ranveer Allahbadia's videos on BeerBiceps helped him clarify some doubts, making his workouts more effective. "Having someone do all the research and present this information in a simplified, localised format [with local foods, in the case of dietary plans] was especially helpful."
Ability to upgrade
Many fitness enthusiasts augment their existing gym routines by seeking videos that involve professionals sharing their own experiences and expertise. Competitive body builder Gaurav Taneja, 31, uses his channel FitMuscle TV as a means of sharing professional tips for other aspirants. "I focus my content on young men who are serious about their fitness but don't have access to fancy coaches and gyms. Most of my videos are for intermediate viewers, who would like to add some more refinement to their workouts," he says.
A pinch of salt
Their growing popularity notwithstanding, e-gyms also present real concerns for unwitting users. Allahbadia says, "Many viewers will base their decisions on factors such as the number of views or subscribers, or the physique of the host, rather than judging more important parameters of technique and accuracy. Certain channels gloss over important guidelines, which can make users more vulnerable to injury." Adnan Sulia, head trainer, ProSport Fitness Centre, adds, "The exercises demonstrated may not be suitable for the viewer's needs.
This is especially the case with beginners or individuals who have pre-existing injuries or other health issues such as diabetes, hypertension or lower back pain, which can get aggravated unless adequate precautions are taken." Nutritionist Karishma Chawla adds, "Dietary trends such as intermittent fasting and ketogenic diets can create nutritional imbalances in the body, if followed indiscriminately. It is imperative to see an expert, and discuss your lifestyle, exercise routine and medical conditions before someone creates a personalised plan for you."
For 35-year-old Jogeshwari-based homemaker, Farah Khan, Sunny's channel was her first exposure to the world of science-backed fitness and exercise. “Most of what I knew about fitness was based on hearsay and common myths. For the longest time, I believed that weight training would make women look ungainly and too muscular, and that I would do better to diet than work out. That changed when I watched My BollyWood Body.” It also helped that Sunny’s videos are in Hindi and do not use any confusing jargon. Khan began to exercise regularly and has since joined her neighbourhood gym.
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