Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan took the opportunity of a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting to lead by example concerning fitness.
The session of WHO Southeast Asia Region (WHO-SEARO) nations saw them make a commitment to collaborate in tackling emerging diseases and other public health challenges such as child health, maternal mortality, the respective nations’ continued burden of infectious conditions such as measles and noncommunicable conditions, which are increasing in prevalence. Vardhan inaugurated the meeting, which took place in New Delhi.
To reach the meeting, Vardhan cycled a distance of six kilometres from his residence in the national capital. Whilst there, he also attended a yoga session and utilised the meeting to highlight the Centre’s agenda concerning the importance of physical fitness. “The 72nd WHO-SEARO session has been organised with a lot of other activities,” he said. “It coincides with the ambitious movement launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi about remaining fit and doing physical activities like yoga, sports, cycling, etc.
“We started the day by cycling from my residence and now we are doing yoga. This will be followed by another cycling session. This is not a symbolic activity, we have to imbibe these practices in our own lives and promote it among others.”
The WHO-SEARO touted Vardhan’s activities on Twitter. “Starting the day with #yoga & cycling as #PhysicalActivity at #RC 72 Regional Director Ministers & delegates from @WHOSEARO countries stress #BeActive,” they tweeted, highlighting the role physical fitness can play in tackling noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) through addressing risk factors such as obesity.
Of his own physical fitness routine, Vardhan has said “I do a combination of activities for at least sixty minutes every day. Depending on when I’m free for about an hour, I either cycle from home to a little beyond Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to Lajpat Nagar, walk at Lodhi Gardens or my own lawn, do yoga and stretching exercises at home or when I’m travelling, or hit the gym for treadmill, cycling and some weights.”
Earlier this year, Vardhan expressed his fondness for cycling on World Bicycle Day. He identified it as his favourite sport and described it as a “simple, affordable, reliable, clean [and] environmentally sustainable means of transport.” Accordingly, he cycled to work to mark the beginning of his second stint as Union Health Minister.
Physical fitness is being heavily promoted by the government in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Fit India’ movement last week. “Fitness has always been an integral part of our culture. But there is indifference towards fitness issues now,” he said at the event. Optimistic about the prospects of the movement to improve the wellbeing of Indians, Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affair Kirin Rijiju said “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.” To this end, it is encouraging that politicians such as Vardhan are leading by example.