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Why people in their early 30s are exercising more

A greater awareness of the benefits of an active lifestyle and a realisation that the body is slowing down and needs to be looked after play a role

It's never too late to start being fit.
It's never too late to start being fit. (Istockphoto)

Shenaz Sayed, a 42-year-old communications professional in Mumbai, turned to exercise at the age of 34. She realised she needed to workout because as a woman in her mid-thirties, she figured she could better deal with hormonal changes in her body if she was fitter. 

Poonam Gandhi, a 39-year-old stock market trader from Kolkata, started working out last year because she found that despite having made no significant changes to her lifestyle or food habits, she had started gaining weight and putting on extra inches around the middle.

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Anecdotal evidence shows that Sayed and Gandhi are among a growing number of men and women in their 30s across India who are turning to exercise and adopting an active and healthier lifestyle, often for the first time in their lives. 

Dr. Vaishali Lokhande, senior consultant for general medicine at Apollo Hospitals in Navi Mumbai, points out that individuals start having health concerns or experiencing lifestyle-related issues. “Concerns such as weight gain, stress, and sedentary lifestyles can prompt people to take up exercise as a means of improving their overall health. Some may also do it just to incorporate physical activity into their routine for improved energy levels and stress management, especially working individuals,” adds Lokhande.  

As people near or cross the age of 30, many of them become more aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle for longevity and a better quality of life, explains Dr. Aparna Ramakrishnan, consultant for psychiatry at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital inMumbai. “Many disorders like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity start appearing around this period. Experiencing these disorders themselves or observing the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle in others often pushes people,” she says. 

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You could also add to this an awareness that one’s metabolism is slowing down. “As age starts to catch up, metabolism slows down, muscles and bones start to become weak and stress could also be a potential factor that gets people to consider starting exercising regularly,” says Spoorthi S., fitness expert at Cult Fit in Bengaluru. 

Sayed, who runs about four times a week, and has also included weight training recently, says she turned to exercise because in her mid-30s she became aware that muscle mass and flexibility are important as you grow older. “Exercising has probably lowered the risk of developing age-related and lifestyle diseases and has definitely kept me in good shape and my weight is under control. The days I exercise my mood is uplifted and feel motivated. My sleep is best on the days I exercise,” says Sayed. 

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As for Gandhi, who has a personal trainer to take her through a combination of body weight exercises and strength training with light weights thrice a week, adopting an active life was the only way out because she has a family history of diabetes and weight gain exacerbates that risk manifold. 

“When I was younger, I never watched my food and drinks but never gained unwanted weight. But now, there are changes happening in my body which I cannot fully comprehend and my weight is increasing. The only way to counter it was exercise,” says Gandhi.

Some of the credit for this new-found popularity of an active lifestyle also goes to social media. Sayed, for one, recognised the importance of exercise on social media. Especially since Covid-19, there has been an amplification in the number of people talking about the importance of fitness and pursuing fitness themselves, notes Spoorthi. 

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However, this can be a double-edged sword and comes with its risks, warn experts. “Social media platforms are filled with influencers who share their workouts and transformation. While one can find inspiration, fitness tips, nutrition advice, and workout routines… it can also contribute to unrealistic expectations. The information overload can be overwhelming and contradictory and can also lead to self-harm if not properly guided,” adds Lokhande. 

While medical and fitness experts are unanimous that it is never too late to start exercising, they also insist that the earlier one starts the better it is. Starting earlier sets the foundation for a healthier lifestyle and helps prevent conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and musculoskeletal injuries. 

“Regular, consistent physical activity right from childhood and adolescence helps in healthy growth and development of the mind and body,” says Ramakrishnan. Exercise is more important as we age because we tend to lose muscle mass and bone density. “Starting exercise in one’s 30s helps maintain muscle mass and strength, reducing the risk of age-related muscle loss and associated difficulties. Strength training can improve metabolic health and facilitate weight control, contributing to overall wellbeing. It can boost confidence, self-image, and overall sense of purpose and progression, which are particularly important as individuals advance in age. Exercise also helps maintain bone, joint, and muscle health, ensuring individuals can carry out daily activities and remain physically active,” adds Lokhande. 

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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