Fitness on the Go

tubingsAccording to a recent survey, 85 percent of Indian businessmen claimed they went to the fitness centres in the hotels they stayed in. Surprisingly, this was way above the average for the Asia Pacific region. Well, on second thoughts, not so surprising.

Between power-packed boardroom sessions and tiring transits, the average business traveller today also packs in a mean punch, with squeeze-to-fit workouts and his trusted gym-in-a-bag. These road warriors take their fitness very seriously, not only because it helps them handle the travails of travel better, but also, it helps when you walk into a meeting looking like a million bucks.

The average Indian business traveller today refuses to board his flight without his trusted tracks, workout shoes, and a mini-gym neatly tucked away in his luggage. Not surprisingly, when he chooses a hotel, one of the first things he checks for is the fitness centre. And if that weren’t quite enough, he also makes ample use of airport-time to work out his biceps- laptop in one hand, and dumbbell in the other.

A study published by The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported that people who travel for business at least two weeks a month are more likely to be in poorer health and at higher risk for medical problems. A study by Columbia University also states that people who travelled for at least 20 days each month had higher blood pressure, high cholesterol, low HLD(good cholesterol) and higher levels of obesity than those on the road for 1-6 days per month.

However, employees who did not travel at all were actually a less healthy group. Compared to light travellers, non-travellers were about 69 percent more likely to rate their health as fair to poor. This may reflect a  “healthy worker effect” with employees who have health problems being less likely to travel. Rates of less-than-good health increased along with nights of travel. Extensive travellers were more likely to rate their health as fair to poor, compared to light travellers. Researchers have also found that businessmen who travel 20 days or more per month are at a high risk for cardiovascular disease.


Fitness professional Sameer Sheikh speaks to EXEC on the importance of exercise, and why it’s shouldn’t be neglected, especially when it comes to people who are forever “on the go.”

Why exercise?

Every one of us should make it a point to get in at least 30-40 minutes of activity on a weekly basis.  We as a people are spending less time engaged in physical activity and this eventually leads to more inactive people who are literally non-functional.
Post-school physical education classes, once a week if you were lucky, and the random college athletics if you were picked or so inclined to be part of, are all now nothing but smile inducing memories – and once you join the workforce, daily activity levels continue to decline for most of us.

What happens if I remain sedentary?

I call this ‘non-functionality’ and any doctor/physical therapist will tell you that being sedentary will eventually lead to muscular dysfunction and inevitably increase chances of injury. For example, lower back pain, knee injuries, shoulder and wrist overuse/misuse and there’s the non-stop chronic disease growth in people of all ages.

Don’t most people do some exercise? Walking, cycling…

All that’s good. But it’s not good enough. The principal goal of fitness is achieving flexibility, stability and core strength. People say to me when I talk about exercise, “I do yoga.” Now, I do yoga as well. But I want them to understand that there are many other forms and approaches to physical well being that are just as important. Doing something that’s convenient or engaging in one or two forms of physical activity because they are enjoyable, just doesn’t cut it. You need an integrated approach to training, like resistance training for example—a very important form of exercise that cannot be replaced.

Doesn’t everyone know we must exercise? What stops them?

When I came to India from New York, I was taken aback by many of the cultural impediments to exercise in India. For example, many women felt comfortable going to gyms that segregated the sexes. There were separate timings for women. There are other examples but I won’t dwell on them because no matter what I think, it’s how people feel and that is a reality I must work around.

What else do you think are impediments?

On top of everything else, not all of us have access to decent infrastructure. There aren’t many public parks or pools. Our apartment complexes don’t always have miniature gyms that accommodate a decent workout.  Most of the time there are no sidewalks to safely walk on. And forget about the pollution. Try fighting that beast.

So, it’s off to the gym, then…?

Yes. No better way.

Does it work for everyone?

Oh, I’m sure you can come up with quite a few of your own reasons as to why you can’t make it to the gym today, (laughs), but that’s a topic for another day: how to keep yourself motivated.

 What if I can’t go to the gym regularly?

That’s the topic of the day. Here’s what I propose – a cheap, efficient and time-conscious answer to any excuse you may have in order to weasel out of exercising. Just get a few of these simple but very dexterous tools and start your own home-gym. Or a gym on the go, if your prefer.

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