Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Fit India’ movement yesterday in a bid to improve the country’s health and wellbeing.
“Fitness has always been an integral part of our culture. But there is indifference towards fitness issues now,” he said at the event. “With technology, physical activity has reduced. We walk less now and the same technology tells us that we are not walking enough.” He administered a fitness pledge at the event. Modi earlier announced the campaign during his Mann Ki Baat radio address, saying “it will be an interesting campaign for all alike, women, children, young and old.”
The event, described as “a colourful ceremony, which included a presentation of India’s indigenous martial art forms, dances and sports”, was attended by Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju and multiple Indian sportspeople. Speaking at the event, Rijiju said “we will take this movement to new heights with the cooperation of my fellow Indians” and encouraged all to participate, proclaiming “we will develop a sports culture and fitness movement in India. We are a great sporting country but need to have a sporting powerhouse. We have to make sports as a way of life.”
The launch coincided with National Sports Day, marking the 114th anniversary of the birth of legendary hockey player and Olympic gold medallist Dhyan Chand, to whom both Modi and Rijiju paid tribute. “On this day a great sportsperson was born, Major Dhyan Chand. He amazed the world with his fitness, stamina, and hockey stick,” Modi said. Rijiju said of Chand “he was our pride for a long time. He was the first Indian to go global and made India proud. He was known as the hockey wizard.” The launch of the ‘Fit India’ movement on his birthday, he said, “is the best tribute we can pay to him.”
Encouraging an active lifestyle for the purpose of physical fitness could carry a number of benefits to Indians’ health, with the potential to combat against rising rates of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by reducing the risk of factors such as obesity, which is becoming more common in India. Thirty million Indians are obese, including 14.4 million children. These figures are expected to rise in the coming years. As such, it is a welcome step that the ‘Fit India’ movement has been launched to encourage an active lifestyle and hopefully lead to fewer cases of obesity – and fewer related diseases.