India has slowly woken up to the benefits, both health and monetary, of the fitness sector.
In North India, for instance, The K11 Academy of Fitness Sciences aims at providing training for those interested in becoming personal trainers. The academy is funded by the state’s National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). In Bangalore, startup CureFit raised $46 million, and went on an aggressive acquisition campaign. CureFit offers users a three-tier health and fitness platform. eat.fit is all about nutrition, cult.fit centers around workouts without the use of machines, and mind.fit, as the name suggests, is about preserving mental health.
This public and private interest in fitness should come as no surprise for a country with a growing middle class and a surge of mobile technology. But gym culture, popular in the West since the 1970s, only started growing in India around 2000. And it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
The rise of Western health woes in India
Between 1975 and 2014, male obesity in India shot up by a mind-numbing 2,500 percent. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), life expectancy for the average Indian male is 68 years, ranking it at a lowly 125th in the world. India has the third-largest population of overweight women, and a study by the Indian Heart and Stroke Foundation found a quarter of all Indian men who suffer a stroke are under the age of 40.
Indians seem to have taken notice of these alarming stats, and with the growth of social media and extremely well-built celebrities, change is in the air. Students and young professionals have become increasingly sensitive of their image, and the need to work out has grown in the last few years. Older age groups are looking at a gym membership primarily to keep stress and physical ailments at bay.
In 2017, the fitness market in India was valued at a whopping 95,000 crore—or $11.9M USD. This means people are ready to hit the gym and use fitness products in a big way. While walking seems to be the go-to exercise routine for individuals in their 30s, young India is open to modern forms of working out. According to one Gympik study, 42% of people are training to lose weight, 46 percent want to up their stamina and 53% want to reduce health-related risks.
These are encouraging stats for fitness newbies as well as the companies that are offering solutions to stay in shape. You’ll still find sari-clad women whining about lifting a 5-pound dumbbell or a pot-bellied man taking bare-chested selfies with abandon, but gyms themselves have transformed into places where serious fitness goals are set.
5 Fitness trends captivating India
Here are a few fitness trends that have taken India by storm.
- State-of-the-art facilities: Working out in a dank, dusty garage hastily converted into a so-called gym is less than motivating. Thankfully, market demands have pushed Indian gyms to set up state-of-the-art facilities. Modern equipment, televisions and music systems are all part of the deal now, as they long have been in the U.S. This swanky revamp of fitness centers all across the country motivates people to make time for daily sessions, and transforms the gym into a place you don’t need to be embarrassed about anymore.
- Group fitness: Indians have started signing up for boot camps that deliver major cardiovascular workouts in the company of other like-minded individuals. This makes sense, especially because in India hiring a personal trainer is not usually an affordable option. Whether you want to join a cardio combat group or try intense aerobics, there is something for everyone in India’s budding group fitness space.
- Wearables and the social media phenomenon: Whether it’s an Apple Watch or a FitBit, Indians are taking to fitness trackers in a huge way. A study conducted by Accenture shows that Indians are quite likely to splurge on apps and fitness trackers (80 % and 81% of those surveyed, respectively). This means that people are ready to set daily targets for themselves, keep a track of their fitness regimen and stay serious about working out. Gym selfies are quite popular on Indian social media platforms now, and many fitness apps and trackers allow you to post your workout details online.
- HIIT: There’s a growing population of young Indians who take their fitness very seriously and keep pushing their limits. That’s why High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become quite popular in the country. It incorporates various cardiovascular exercises to form a short yet intense workout with breaks in between. HIIT has proven to improve muscular strength and endurance, and has become the first choice for those up for a fitness challenge.
- Make it a Party: If everything were a party, this world would be a much better place to live in. Or maybe not. But the good news is exercise can be a good time if organized correctly. Parties centered around air aerobics, water yoga and dance forms have become a popular choice for Indians who want to let their hair down and exercise, too.
India may have been slow to embrace the fitness revolution, but they’re now picking up the pace. This opens up a world of opportunities for people looking to lose weight or just stay fit in this ever-developing country with growing health issues such as obesity and stroke.