Home fitness apps have been shaping our lives long before COVID-19

The post-COVID world has taught us to cope up with our mental, physical and emotional health as part of our daily routine.

The fitness community in India has evolved rapidly, however, the idea of a healthy mind in a healthy body is not new to Indians — yoga, akhadas, ayurveda, and meditation have always been a part of our culture.

With globalisation and ease in the availability of information, traditional practices and exercises are being reinforced and supplemented by a modern, dynamic, and rising fitness industry in India.

According to reports, with gyms and fitness centers closed, limited space to exercise indoors and lack of gym-like-set up with little to no access to fitness equipment, being innovative to stay fit became the need of the hour.

Therefore, amid pandemic, India developed its India’s first AI-enabled Intelligent Virtual Nutrition Coach App. One-of-a-kind mobile application, Fitza, conceptualized to touch the lives of people through holistic health and nutritional wellbeing, leveraging on modern technology.

Fitza is a smartphone application that was founded by a team of Highly Trained and Expert Women from various parts of the Health and Fitness business along with the CEO Nikhil Bhel.

The CEO, in a conversation with Mumbai Live, spoke on the democratising access to life improvement and transformative techniques, how they help people achieve their true potential and reclaim their wellness. 

Sharing about its inception, CEO said that while the idea of Fitza came into being well before Covid, it was turbo charged during the pandemic. One of our co-founders, Shweta Shah, who is also the subject matter expert, sparked our interest which grew into a flashover that consumed us. 

At Fitza, we coined the acronym DIET to represent the Development of Health, Intelligent Lifestyle, Emotional Stability and Temperance of the nervous system. That’s our holistic approach to self care.   

The pandemic is a fierce teacher and one learning it has grilled into us is the importance of Preventive Self-care. In the backdrop of the gruelling concern of chronic ailments such as overweight/obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular ailment in our country, it becomes imperative for each of us to be a stakeholder in deciding our wellbeing journey, he added.

Is integration of physical, mental and spiritual well-being the path to infinite potential?

Indeed, it is. When the physical, mental and emotional intelligence align, the nervous system starts working in non resistance to the external environment. One then remains in a calmer state and the body organs do not react to external imbalances aggressively. It empowers the being to self actualize that restores mental health and brings emotional stability in ease and flow. The whole process of remaining in harmony with the body, mind and heart is what we call spiritual well being and that’s the new timeline one can achieve when self care is implemented as a lifestyle regimen. It is the absolute path for one and all to realise their infinite potential.

How virtual fitness applications helped people maintain health through the pandemic?

Home fitness apps have been shaping our lives long before COVID-19, but their popularity has truly surged in the last few months. Between Q1 and Q2 2020, health and fitness app downloads grew by 46% worldwide.

India saw the highest increase in downloads, rising by 156%. That translates to 58 million new active users—almost the entire population of Italy.

This makes sense considering that India had the largest lockdown in the world—from March 25 to May 2020, 1.3 billion people were instructed to stay inside. That’s a lot of people who, quite suddenly, found themselves homebound.

Along with a surge in downloads, fitness apps also saw a rise in daily active users (DAUs). This is significant because it shows people weren’t just downloading these apps and forgetting about them—they were actually using them.

Mindfulness and meditation apps also grew in popularity and even more than active workout apps. The three big global platforms that have garnered the majority of the headlines are Calm, Headspace and MyFitnessPal.

The reason for this accelerated and exponential growth was that people didn’t have a choice since gyms, outdoor open spaces, parks, beaches are all out of bound.

Could you throw some light on the psychological sufferings that deprived sections of society face?

1.       Social Exclusion - The mental health issues and psychological sufferings of deprived sections are a wide ranging problem.  It is a Global multi dimensional phenomenon that highlights the  need for an extended inclusion attitude in society. The relationship between mental health and exclusionary factors involves 'stigmatization,' 'othering' etc. A different approach is required in the case of mental health in this category and we need an action oriented policy making.

2.  Confined Spaces - If we talk about overall health and safety, most of them stay in toxic atmosphere, poor air quality and insufficient space for all. These spaces cause claustrophobia and increased stress which remain unnoticed mostly.

3.  Job and Income Loss- After the global pandemic, loss of job and declining income has become an increasing concern. Low levels of household income are associated with several lifetime mental disorders. Some instances of Suicide attempts have also been recorded due to the same  Policymakers need to consider optimal methods of intervention to to address these issues.

4.  Not being able to socialise/ meet loved ones, families - Lack of social interaction links to depressive disorders and without the awareness it is not possible for an individual to identify the problem.

5.  Depression, anxiety, panic, existential issues, loneliness, fear, mood swings- Mental Health issues of the less fortunate can reach across the lifespan. It has a major psychosocial impact on individuals. When individuals don't have the necessary security in life, signs like depression and anxiety can develop and intensify. There are evidence based measures to progress mental health Promotion, early intervention and care that can lead to resilience.

What’s your stance on the social stigma attached to mental and physical health issues?

Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental and physical health condition are common. While physical health conditions are visible and therefore believable, mental and psychological health concerns more often than not lead to discrimination. Discrimination may be obvious and direct, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or your treatment. Or it may be unintentional or subtle, such as someone avoiding you because the person assumes you could be unstable, violent or dangerous due to your mental illness. You may even judge yourself.

Some of the harmful effects of stigma can include:

·         Rejection to seek help or treatment

·         Lack of support by family, friends, co-workers or others

·         Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities

·         Bullying, physical violence or harassment

·         Low morale and reduced self belief

It is important to speak up against a stigma and to help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness. Learning to accept your condition and recognize what you need to do to treat it, seeking support, and to help educate others can make a big difference.

With the advent of the pandemic, adults and children have faced emotional turmoil. How does mental health interlinked to healthy well-being?

Mental and physical health is fundamentally linked. There are multiple associations between mental health and chronic physical conditions that significantly impact people’s quality of life. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines: health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The WHO states that “there is no health without mental health.”

Nowhere is the relationship between mental and physical health more evident than in the area of chronic conditions. 

COVID-19 has affected daily life in unprecedented ways including dramatic changes in physical activity, sleep, time use, and mental health. Various studies on the mental health impacts of COVID-19 have tightened the link between lifestyle behaviours and depression.

Organizations dealing with mental health state that the number of cases of anxiety and depression has doubled during the pandemic.

How could one better navigate through these turbulent times?

There is no single correct way or a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) to help navigate this period of crisis. However, it’s crucial that we are conscious and aware of changes occurring in and around us. We must use this knowledge prudently to better prepare ourselves rather than fear the probability of a negative outcome occurring with us.

Physical Health - Eating nutritiously and ensuring strong immunity is a good starting point.

Physical Exercise

To practice Emotional and Mental Health techniques

To become a beacon of hope for others and inspire people to follow your lead

At work, listen to employees…be compassionate and empathetic

Work life balance especially when working from home (WFH)

If we are to specifically talk about Mumbai, what are the commonalities in the health sphere seen here?

If we talk about Mumbai in precise, over the years, we have observed people attracting common chronic dis-ease/s like Hypertension, Diabetes & PCOD/PCOS which is majorly caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices and work-life imbalance. COVID-19 pandemic was an addition to weak immunity health.

Eating out most of the days, consuming alcohol and tobacco is seen as a common habit amongst the youth and that has also increased the number of Cancer cases to an extent.

Adding to that we have seen lots of depressive behavioural patterns between the age of 25 to 45, coming from diversified backgrounds.

Mental health has taken a toss in the last few years and there are many public health organizations as well as private health and wellness companies like Fitza are working diligently towards improving the present conditions.

Does Mumbai's fast-paced lifestyle lead to an unhealthy lifestyle?

It’s very important to isolate observations of symptoms and the root cause of the problem. Yes, we observe life in Mumbai characterised by pace, stress, power rush, broken infrastructure, crowded pockets, etc. However, the deeper problem is actually a lack of awareness that leads to unhealthy lifestyle practises. Covid, while the destruction it had on lives and livelihoods, was also an event that caused people to pause and introspect. The need for healthy living has gained significant momentum owing to the ongoing pandemic with nutrition taking centre stage.  People are moving from - a nice to have to need to have mindset. The adage ‘health is wealth’ has never been more appropriate and relevant than now. No matter the situation, it always comes down to how aware and conscious we are of what is good for us and what we should avoid.

How do you aim to spread more awareness about fitness and healthy lifestyle among all group groups through this app?

Our long-term vision is to support people in making healthier lifestyle choices and realizing their true potential thereby creating a path to prosperity.

We intend on spreading awareness by leveraging social media, our network of nutritionist, wellness coaches and healthcare professionals. We are also forging strategic collaborations with Healthcare Companies, Healthtech Platforms, Transformative Tech Platforms like wearables, etc to help reach out to a larger audience.

Given that habits have changed in 2020, we believe that there will be a cultural paradigm shift in 2021 led by an emphasis on personal health with Corporates leading the way by investing in Employee health. We are also working towards partnering with Corporates.