Thursday, January 17, 2008


Fitness and wellness

Fitness means being healthy and strong, including physical training to discipline one’s body. To remain fit, one must exercise. Wellness, on the other hand includes fitness but also means being healthy, fresh, happy and lively. Wellness includes the business of spas, massages, skin care, health food, etc. A person who is well is also fit. The wellness industry, thus, includes all aspects of good health.

Janhavi Abhyankar
children exercise
If you’re surprised by the sight of 10 to 12-year-olds sweating it out at the gym, well, don’t be. Fitness mania, it appears, is catching on at a really young age. But getting the kids to stay in fighting shape is not the only thing on Leena Mogre’s mind these days. Neither, for that matter, is she concerned only about getting 20- and 30-year-olds to get those muscles ripping. Mogre, a trained nutritionist who runs an 8,000-sq. ft fitness centre in Mumbai, knows that no matter how much you pump iron or run those early morning miles, bad food habits can ruin the benefits of exercise. So, she now has a supplementary business: a 24-hour fitness centre-cum-café. “I’m making sure that time-strapped professionals and businessmen can hop in whenever they have time,” says Mogre. So, whether it is a 30-minute stress-busting workout or a low-cal protein shake, everything’s healthy in Mogre’s world.

It is no secret that India, and urban India in particular, is fighting a stiff battle against bulging bellies and double chins, thanks to odd working hours, burgeoning wallets, mouth-watering junk food, and loads of stress. Alarmingly, an estimated 28 per cent of urban school children were obese in 2006 as against 16 per cent in 2004, according to the Delhi-based Diabetes Foundation of India. The mushrooming of gyms in practically every neighbourhood has proved that Indians care about how they look. But now, it transpires that they care about more. “Today, the definition of wellness has changed,” says Gayatri Singh, CEO of Sterling Health Malls. “It’s not only about being healthy; the quality of life has become more important.”

With health fast turning into serious business, companies are expanding their horizons to offer more than just the mundane. For instance, Singh’s Sterling Health Malls, promoted by the Rs 1,000-crore gelatine producer Sterling Biotech of Mumbai, is consolidating all the services in the fitness and wellness sector under one roof. The company opened its first health mall in Baroda two months ago — which has everything from gyms, yoga centres and spas to health food retail outlets — at a cost of Rs 8 crore.

A list of companies engaged in the wellness business

There are, of course, those that still focus only on the food, but differently. Mumbai-based Calorie Care delivers healthy, customised food to customers at their doorsteps. And Santosh Awatramani, whose parents are diabetic, took it upon himself to help “people who feel like eating sweets but can’t”. His company, Sugarless Bliss, offers specially-made delicacies such as cookies, muffins, cakes, and also Indian sweets such as gulab jamuns and rasagullas.

A caveat here. While awareness of better overall health has risen, it has not risen by much. “Though people look aware, hardly 0.1 per cent of the total population, that too only in urban areas, take to gyms seriously,” says Nithin Areja, CEO of Trinity Health-Tech, an equipment manufacturer that also operates a series of gyms under the name ‘qi’.

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