Fitness is subjective.
For many, some form of light activity like a brisk walk is equivalent to staying fit, others consider training hard and eating clean as being fit.
Images conducted a fitness survey to see what Pakistan's definition of being fit is and asked fitness instructors Hydris Wajiuddin, owner Hydro Fit Team and Jeannette Farouque of Studio X to weigh in. From a pool of 2,514 respondents (89.4% male and 10.6% female), here's what we gathered.
We asked our respondents to calculate their BMI* (Body Mass Index) and although almost half (45.76%) of the female respondents' BMI falls between the normal range (18.5 - 24.9), 31.7% are in the overweight range (25 - 29.9), while 14.69% are underweight and 8.49% are obese.
Why is BMI important?
Jeannette explains, "It is important to know the BMI of the client during the fitness assessment to guide them to reach their goals. The Body Mass Index accurately estimates your total body fat. And, the amount of fat that you carry is a good indicator of your risk for a variety of diseases."
BMI is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy.
Majority of male respondents fall in the normal range (45.49%), however, 10.6% are obese and 35.5 % fall in the overweight range, while 8.16% are underweight.
According to the Studio X owner, BMI can help you tailor your exercises, which is especially helpful if you've crossed the normal range: "Once I do the fitness assessment and evaluate medical tests of the clients, I prepare a program accordingly along with the diet. I begin with very basic cardio, strength training and flexibility, in order to build up stamina and strength. The program has different phases. It is a whole process to work with obese clients, but it’s a great reward."
Though eating in moderation is usually key to eating healthy, 11% of our readers are of the opinion that consuming everything and exercising constitutes as eating healthy, while 8.1% believe it's about controlling food intake. However, majority of our readers, 68% believe that eating healthy is a two-pronged approach, where you eat right and exercise.
Hydris says otherwise, "A good diet should include all food groups: complex carbs, protein, good fats but all, of course, in moderation. A protein-rich diet (eggs, baked or boiled chicken, fish and vegetables) and whole grain, with seasonal fruits are perfect."
Jeannette seconds that.
"Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health and can help you feel your best. This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and water to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight," she says.
Surprisingly, the most important meal of the day, breakfast, is neglected by many. 18.2% of the respondents say they skip breakfast and only 10.2% eat the recommended 5 - 6 small meals a day,
Hydris explains why it's not advisable to skip the morning meal, "There's a reason instructors warn against skipping meals, especially breakfast. The reason why breakfast is essential is because the food you consume in the morning allows you to use those calories throughout the day."
Jeannette shares what a healthy breakfast constitutes of, "A good dietary plan should include a healthy breakfast, (porridge, eggs, brown bread); a healthy snack such as an apple mid-morning. Build yourself a great rainbow salad including veggies, protein and good fats like avocado in it."
The saying, 'Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper', implies that one should have a heavy (nutrient wise) breakfast and subsequently reduce food intake throughout the day. However, only 17.3% of our readers go heavy in the morning, 36.1% choose to have a heavy lunch, and 25.9% go heavy during dinner.
"A heavy dinner is never ideal as the food consumed at night doesn't get burnt - your body doesn't end up using those calories, so it gets stored as fat and causes weight gain and works against weight loss (in both cases; skipping breakfast and having heavy dinner)," says Hydris.
Jeannette, on the other hand, feels it's best to go heavy during lunch, "I do believe that making lunch the heaviest meal of the day helps in weight loss and fuels your system with energy for the rest of the day."
Nonetheless, both fitness experts agree that one should not go heavy at night, nor skip meals. If anything, they suggest increasing meal intake (in small portions) and cutting down the meal size as the day progresses.
Our multiple choice question hailed walking (48.9%) the winner with the highest number of votes, the second most popular exercise was running (40.3%) and third, weight lifting (37.3%). We wonder whether walking can be considered exercise for most, especially for people who are above their normal weight limit...
Jeannette answers in the affirmative. "Yes, walking is an aerobic exercise as it raises the heart rate; it is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels."
But Hydris explains why it's not a long term solution to losing weight. "Walking is one form of exercise but you can't really depend on it as the sole source to lose weight, especially if you want to gain strength, for that you'll have to hit the gym."
The above bar chart shows the top five choices of our readers from a host of exercises asked in the survey.
Influence among social circles remains one of the most dominant reasons as to what prompted our readers to be fit, although, majority (38.19%) chose the fit life because of physical health issues, social circle influence is a close second.
It's important to note that 25.5% of respondents said that psychological reasons led them to lead a fit lifestyle. While for some (10.3%) other people's weight loss stories gave them a push.
Hydris' transformation was enough to motivate people to hit the gym with him. "Many of my clients came to me after they saw my transformation and my workout videos on social media, so it really depends on person to person what motivates them to get fit."
Jeannette's clients feel the need to lose weight for improved health. "Majority of my clients' main reason is to lose weight, but once they start exercising they feel motivated by the way they feel after exercising and their overall health improves.
The above bar chart shows our respondents' top six choices from a number of answers they provided.
It's hard to stay on the fitness track when working, however, 5.4% of our readers receive in-house fitness sessions at work. Even binge-eating or stress eating while working cause weight gain, but for the lucky 8.9% respondents, their workplace offers healthy food options.
Other ways of motivation are to restrict smoking indoors (47.4%), or even offer discounted gym memberships (13.4%).
Hydris and Jeannette, both feel that a workplace should motivate its employees to be healthy.
The Hydro Fit Team owner says, "Workplaces should incorporate a workout class for employees. Putting up motivational quotes also helps. Having a fitness trainer come talk to them about how to stay active and take short breaks in between work, etc. can help them keep fit, active and more productive. And of course, providing healthy meals on the menu is a must."
Jeannette wasn't too far behind Hydris' suggestion, "The best way to encourage employees to stay fit is to arrange for a trainer to come to the work place routinely and workout together for at least 30 mins every day - at lunch time or after work. A group class is more fun to exercise in. Also you include healthy options in the workplace to snack or eat for lunch.
Money seems to be an important factor when it comes to fitness. We asked our readers how much they'd pay for a fitness instructor, majority (40.4%) said they train themselves, while 25.7% were not willing to pay to hire a personal trainer.
Interestingly, from the pool who were willing to pay, 22.7% said they'd pay less thank Rs.10,000 and only 3.5% said they wouldn't put a price tag to fitness and would be willing to shell out as much as need be.
The trainers, on the other hand, share experiences contrary to the survey result.**
"From my experience, people have started hiring personal trainers now that they know the advantages of hiring a personal trainer. Of course, if one is more comfortable training by themselves, then they should learn the proper forms before jumping into it. Initially, guidance from a personal trainer is always needed," says Hydris.
And Jeannette agrees. "I think the opposite is happening right now in Karachi; everyone is hiring a personal trainer. But I do believe that personal training should not be for everyone, the one to one attention should be given to clients who really need it; such as people who are obese, or people with physical disabilities, or back or knee problems, or an athlete who needs improvement in their performance of a sport.
She adds that, gyms should have trainer to guide everyone during exercise. People can exercise themselves if they are knowledgeable of what they are doing, a bit self-discipline is good for human development.
*Note: It's important to keep in mind that the pool of clients Hydris and Jeannette cater to do not necessarily reflect (majority of) the respondents of our survey.