Majority of the people one meets today, especially the youth, are yearning to find that all-elusive balance in life. It’s as though they are being hit from all sides—education, work, chores, future decisions, social media, and now the pandemic that’s thrown everyone off-kilter. Unfortunately, the first thing to get sacrificed at a time like this is active and healthy living. With ever-increasing items on their daily to-do lists, most youngsters succumb trying to find succor in front of a screen—whether to balance that excel sheet, or memorise the day’s lesson, or update their social media presence, or binging on the ever-growing OTT oeuvre. The pandemic has clearly not been of help, in fact, quite the opposite. Morning runs are rare, no friendly practice games, gym machines sit idle, as do cycles. To add to this, dietary habits are becoming lazy (read unhealthy) as many youngsters prefer to just order in, rather than make the effort to cook for one.
Given that youth makes up 22 percent of India’s population (more than 261 million) and are crucial to driving a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and diversity, it becomes imperative that we ensure they adopt an active and healthy lifestyle. However, the alarming rate at which health concerns amongst youngsters is growing is an extremely worrying trend and can be attributed to one or more of the following—increasing screen-time, less physical activity, academic or professional stress, the eating-out or ordering-in culture, among others.
Youth is a period of many changes—physical, physiological and psychological. It’s a phase for rapid evolution of their definitions of health, relationships, responsibility, social interactions and duty, and sets the foundation for their future, as they spread their wings and go out into the world.
There are some basics, which if the youth follow, will set them on the path of good health, even while staying at home.
You are what you eat
Every nutritionist, every doctor, every wellness expert is touting what our elders have been telling us for free all our lives—nutrition is the key to staying healthy. Increasingly, the younger generation is getting trapped in an addictive way of life—ordering food in, or constantly wanting to eat out. While eating out occasionally is completely okay, it’s important to understand that home cooked meals that include fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables are the way to good health. What’s heartening is the growing tribe of youngsters who have taken to cooking during the pandemic inspiring many to follow their recipes online—in the process realising that making nutritious wholesome food can be fun too. So check it out for yourself and have a cook-off amongst friends or family.
Get up and move
First things first—fitness is not a goal, it is a lifestyle. It is also not directly (or in any way) proportionate to fancy, expensive gym equipment, or the latest activewear. In fact, it can be as easy as taking your pet for a walk in the mornings, and challenging them to a sprint; a yoga session with your best friend on video-call; a virtual neighborhood aerobics session, or even running up and down the steps of your high-rise before your lunch break can be just what your body and mind needs.
Healthy mind, healthy body
What’s crucial to understand is that health is not limited to what you weigh, what you eat, or how much you run—a critical aspect of health is how you feel. So, while you eat right and exercise right, also make sure you’re taking charge of your mental health. In today’s emotionally fragile environment wrought with uncertainty and upheavals it’s imperative to pause every once in a while and get some me-time—make yourself a cup of hot chocolate or coffee, go walk on the grass, bask in the sun, meditate, or even close your eyes and do just nothing.
So, what can brands do to help?
Well, just because sports is epitomised as physical action and an active lifestyle, should it mean that only sports brands should lead this undertaking? We don’t believe so. All brands, in their own unique ways, can work towards encouraging their younger consumers to put their health first. In fact, I truly believe that promoting a healthy and active lifestyle should be an inherent part of every brand’s ethos—as it’s the youth of today that will carry forward our legacy into the future.
All brands must take on responsibility towards this goal, curating platforms for sports inclusion, entering meaningful partnerships with sports teams and associations, initiate motivational projects, and sponsor grassroots-level events that promote athletics. All in all, create an environment where sportspersons, aspiring sportspersons, as well the youth, are influenced and inspired to follow their own journey to a fitter and better tomorrow.
The surge in the young, working population in India presents multiple unique possibilities for our country’s future. Thus, I say to the young people of our country—stay active, eat healthy, work on your fitness, and the future is yours for the taking.
The writer is head of sports initiatives and associations at Usha International.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.