Post-Pandemic: Changing the Way We View Fitness in Sri Lanka
By Talavou Alalima - Founder and Chairman of Power World Gyms and creator of the Proxone app
We see quite a lot of people talking about various topics related to fitness. Despite the many technological responses and awareness, there are no sufficient innovative solutions that have an absolute impact on the individual’s health and wellness. We need to build a healthy Sri Lanka and to build a future generation that values healthy lifestyles;
to have parents living long enough to see their children grow up and be there for their grandchildren as well. If we don’t make this change today, we’ll continue to see a decline in the nation’s health and wellness standards. We have to strengthen our immunity to our best, beginning with changing the way we view exercise, fitness, and activity.
Fitness, trends, and views in Sri Lanka
Today, many degenerative and non-communicable diseases are destroying lives and families, primarily due to lack of knowledge and not having access to organised, vital, and fundamental physical activity structures without paying a steep price. The conventional annual memberships are outdated and archaic. In this day and age, people look for access to any physical activity facility or service, at their convenience, suiting their desired budget and location.
Having pioneered the gym industry over 25 years ago, we’ve seen a significant number of people coming in for the first time, and then there is a group that has been around from their young adult life, and this group holds a higher appreciation for activities and trends that has evolved throughout. There is a trend towards participating in new fitness activities from a minor group however it’s a long way to go for the majority of the population. However, only less than a mere 1% of the total population is into fitness and exercises.
Uplifting lives and an ideal philosophy
My philosophy in life is about serving, uplifting and strengthening others especially those who are disadvantaged, ignored, forgotten, and helpless and are underdogs. I consider myself a social entrepreneur as opposed to the usual. I enjoy seeing and making others happy and stronger. I recall never asking my single mother for anything; I was happy to wear the single party kit that was mine for years and keep using multi-bond on my only pair of shoes that were falling apart. I love to see the impact and contribution I make rather than just profits.
And this passion started with my interest in fitness, pioneering the gym industry in 1994 with Power World. I chose to build affordable gyms as opposed to an upmarket model, to give access to quality facilities to those who cannot. The 1996 Cricket World Cup-winning team benefited from working out at Power World, with Sanath Jayasuriya discovering his true gift here. From thereon, almost every Sri Lankan national team, clubs including school-level have trained at our gyms, free of charge.
In 2000, we pioneered the sports nutrition manufacturing industry with an affordable range of sports nutrition supplements branded as ‘Edge’. Later in 2007, I hosted the Edge Grand Prix, a series of Track and Field championships. I also launched, funded, and backed the ‘Lion Warrior Sports High-Performance Program’ for five years, training and sponsoring nutrition needs for over 40 Sri Lankan champion sportsmen. Today we see this wisdom embedded in the fabric of all sports, that performance nutrition and strength training must go hand in glove.
Building gyms in prison- Seeing the desperate mental state our prisoners were in, we donated fully equipped gyms to the Welisara, Mahara, and Bogambara prisons. We are determined to build gyms for all 26 prisons in the country in near future.
Death to dengue campaign- The impact the Dengue was on families at its peak, I took on the leadership to fight it by launching the ‘Death to Dengue’ campaign in association with the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) and that continues till date.
Predicting sports talent- I hypothesized that, if the sporting talent of a child could be predicted early enough, with a high level of accuracy, the chances of competing to become world champions across all sports, when talented children reached their physical maturity, is possible. This gave birth to Sports Unleash, a first of its kind predictive algorithm-based system. Today, seven years later testimonies of children confirmed the prediction was accurate.
Pandemic and its effect on fitness for Sri Lanka
The first wave of the novel coronavirus that hit us took us by surprise. The physically active group suddenly realised how invaluable the exercises they were doing. There was a massive decline in health stature, people gaining weight, and diets were out of control. The industry took a hit as there were various speculations that gyms were high-risk venues for infection.
As this might be true due to those with air-conditioning due to its closed environment but on the contrary, gyms with open spaces are highly less unlikely. With the second wave now in, we need to organise, prepare, and participate in various outdoor activities. We need to boost our immunity, go out and be active. Research shows that outdoor activities pose a lower risk of virus spread. Currently many only have access to walking pathways; this is where the Proxone app kicks in, enabling one to seamlessly carry on with their favorite activity during these challenging times.
Innovations are only branches of a large tree
To be physically and mentally healthy and to be able to enjoy a longer quality of life, every single person has to willfully and purposely participate in some fitness. Our bodies are willing to live a longer lifespan, but unfortunately, we take it for granted especially in our youthful years. Each one of these innovations is branch of a large tree, and so is the Proxone app one of its branches, purpose-built to impact lives. Innovation and invention, being second nature, in the future, we will see many more initiatives which would be anchored firmly to my philosophy and world view to uplift and strengthen everyone.