For some, group workouts used to be a stress buster. But things have changed with the social distancing necessitated by the pandemic. Gyms and health and fitness centres have shut until at least April 15. With all outdoor movement and activities restricted during the lockdown, many now stand a risk of developing issues stemming from a sedentary lifestyle. This could lead to a rise in illnesses that may, in turn, put unwanted pressure on the healthcare system. However, the lockdown need not spell the end of your fitness journey. With online fitness classes booming, there are no excuses for not working out even if you can’t hit the gym.
Aditi Shah used to go the gym regularly, but missed her daily dose of workout due to the lockdown. “I was worried that being inactive and housebound would affect my health and fitness. I was thrilled when FITTR (an online fitness company) announced they would conduct daily live sessions.” Initially, Shah was hesitant to join online fitness classes. “I thought that it would just be a basic drill to get us to move our bodies. But I am actually getting a pretty thorough workout. The other advantage is that these sessions have helped me create a daily routine while I am at home,” she explains.
FITTR has a twice-a-day home-workout series. Every day, at 6 am and at 5.30 pm, its coaches conduct live sessions on its Facebook page. Each session lasts for between 45 minutes to an hour (longer if needed). It includes yoga, meditation, high-intensity workout, core workout, chair workout, bodyweight training, Tabata, shadow boxing, functional training and circuit training.
Jitendra Chouksey, the founder of FITTR, says, “We understand that most people don’t have access to gym equipment, so most workouts employ just your body weight. In some workouts, we use basic equipment such as resistance bands and dumbbells. The coaches also make use of everyday household things such as chairs, backpacks and water bottles to demonstrate how even these can help sweat and burn calories. All sessions are free of charge and anyone can join in. They are conducted by trained experts in exercise science.”
Sunita Raghavan, a fitness enthusiast from Delhi says, “Special sessions such as Tabata, yoga, HIIT and functional training in online sessions have helped me get an effective workout even within the confines of my home. I am one of those who love to go for a run or walk, but in the current situation, I find online fitness classes a good option.”
COVID-19 has not only turned people’s worlds upside down, it has also forced them to reimagine the mundane activities they were accustomed to. Himanshu Sahani, a yoga instructor from Delhi, says, “A massive change took place in the way we perceive fitness. My students didn’t want to miss out on a single session when I took classes in ILiftFitness gym. It was they who insisted that I should start giving classes through Instagram live. It was a new thing for all of us, but we are enjoying it.”
Ira Trivedi, author and yoga teacher, says that as she had been conducting yoga classes with an app, she very quickly got on to Zoom for her classes. “Right now, we have seven batches of classes in a day. I have added a foundation course and am conducting chair yoga for senior citizens. We have kid’s yoga too.” She feels that yoga is important for kids, especially now that they are cooped up inside the house. “For the kid’s batch, we are using Zoom in an interesting way—with a virtual background. The best thing about yoga is that you don’t need anything, other than a mat and yourself. Those who don’t have a mat can do it on the carpet or just use a towel,” she ads
Naresh Krishnaswamy, Growth and Business head at cure.fit, says, “We have about two lakh people attending online classes daily and we are seeing an increase in numbers every day. Anyone can access these classes on the cure.fit app or website.” The classes are designed in such a manner that they are safe for everyone. They have different versions of the same exercises depending on the flexibility and fitness level of the person. The company has also launched a #MovementForMovement challenge to donate to PM-CARES. For every person taking the challenge and completing 12 days of the online workout, cure.fit will contribute Rs 100 to the fund.
Parul Kapur of BollyX, a Bollywood-inspired dance-fitness programme, started her online classes on the March 22 and spread the word through family and friends on Facebook and Instagram. “My first class started with 22 students. I am conducting these classes online on Zoom and am teaching people in not just India, but also Malaysia, Singapore, UK, USA and Canada. I now teach people whom I have never met in my life.”
About 17 people on an average participate in Kapur’s classes. The motivating factor for her is that in every class she can see a new person joining. “The only drawback is that a video takes away transmission of energy between the instructor and the participants, which happens better when a class is conducted in person. However, through motivational shout-outs and better verbal instructions, I try and get the enthusiasm going. Even though I am unable to maintain eye contact, keeping the focus on the camera helps the participant feel more included.”