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Getting Buff in India

Getting Buff in India
By Fred Hoffman, M.ED.

Just having returned from an eight-day whirlwind tour in India to conduct Reebok Core Training workshops, I was amazed to see the huge growth spurt and changes that have taken place in the Indian fitness industry since my last trip in 1999.

For a long time, health and fitness clubs in India were available to a mostly well-to-do, affluent clientele. In recent years, numerous clubs and gyms have opened in cosmopolitan cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai, bustling metropolises such as Bangalore and Chennai, and are gaining a presence in places such as Kolkata and Hyderabad. No longer just for the rich, working out has become affordable for not only the upper-middle class, but the middle and lower-middle classes as well.

Who is Working out, and Where?
The clientele in the clubs is varied; a mix of executives, CEOs, models, well known cricketers, housewives and students. The clubs also attract young emerging athletes.

In most cities, modern, educated woman are now working out for the health benefits, but clubs are also attracting young girls who aspire to be thin and are influenced by Fashion magazines and Hollywood movies.

Gold’s gym has opened several clubs in both New Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay) as well as one in Chennai (Madras), and there are plans to expand and open many more in several other cities over the next few years. The Gold’s facility in Chennai is 7,000 square feet and boasts 900 members. The owner says that originally gyms were seen as a “meeting place” or just a fad, but now, more people are taking health and fitness seriously. In the last year, seven to eight different health clubs have opened in Chennai.

One of my workshops was held at Fitness One, a 12,000 square foot health club. Five months after its opening, there are 500 members. It is a full-service club that offers everything from yoga to karate to aerobics classes. There is also a women-only workout area, and child care is provided.

As well, most three-star, four-star and five-star hotels have gyms which cater to both hotel guests and the locals, and many of the upscale hotels additionally have spas which offer massage, beauty treatments, lifestyle consultation, nutritional advice and meditation.

What Activities are Popular?
Group fitness activities include step aerobics, aqua aerobics, strength and conditioning classes, and stability ball training. Indoor cycling classes have begun as well as core training and Pilates. As expected, yoga is very popular, as many Indians have practiced this form of exercise for most of their lives.

The group exercise classes are attended mostly by women, but it is not uncommon to see them in the weight room working out next to their male counterparts!

Bhangra, an Indian rural dance form has also seen an emergence in health clubs and fitness studios. Using traditional Indian music, instructors have choreographed aerobic routines which follow the folk dance patterns, but also provide a cardiovascular workout.

Some clubs are offering wellness programs and it is not unusual to see vegetable juices and health drinks available.

My Indian colleagues also stated that personal training is truly beginning to take hold, and in the major cities, they are starting to see a decline in group class attendance. Membership Costs and Trainer Fees
Memberships are sold for periods of three or six months, as well as for one year. The average price ranges from 7,000 to 22,000 rupees per year (160 to 500 $US). Currently, it appears that a price war is occurring, and many clubs have markedly reduced their prices; some as low as 6,000 rupees (136 $US) for a one-year membership!

In Mumbai, group fitness instructors earn anywhere from 200 to 250 rupees per class (4 to 5 $US) with some earning up to 750 (17 $US) rupees, this tends to be the exception. Personal trainers may command anywhere from 600 rupees (14 $US) to 2,000 rupees (45 $US) per one-hour session. Experience and notoriety of the trainer, as well as the specific clientele that the trainer is working with come into play when determining fees. Of course this varies from city to city and club to club, but wages are still quite low.* Although most of the trainers work with their clients in health clubs and gyms, some of the richer clients have their own private gyms and pools at home. Education and Certifications
Education is emphasized and many more instructors are participating in one of the several instructor training courses that are recognized in the country. In recent years, ACE and ACSM certification exams have been administered in India. Internet has also played a huge role in continuing education. Although more instructors are getting certified, a few of the club owners I spoke with expressed their frustration in finding qualified trainers.

In all three cities I visited, I conducted a two-day training workshop. The participants included group fitness instructors, personal trainers, sports trainers, cricket coaches, physical therapists and a sports medicine doctor. (A global phenomenon, I had to ask my participants to turn off their mobile phones during the training…sound familiar?)

HEALTH & NUTRITION, a fitness journal that resembles western style fitness magazines and covers all health, fitness, nutrition and lifestyle topics is available at local bookstores and kiosks. And in my hotel, on my last morning in India, I was impressed to see an exercise program being offered on one of the cable television stations. Health and fitness issues were discussed, and an exercise routine was presented by Indian instructors for the population at large.

Visiting the Taj Mahal?
Planning a trip to India in the future? Be sure to include a bit of fitness in your schedule, as you can find it just about anywhere in this fascinating country of over one billion people! *To give you a better perspective on incomes, my driver in Mumbai earns approximately 2500 rupees (44 $US) per month as a base salary. He supplements this with a lot of overtime, and counts on tips as well. He may earn as much as 100 $US per month.