For moms, too, sitting is the new smoking: Bhavna Harchandrai

'Be a good role model. Engage and motivate your children to be the best version of themselves,' says the fitness instructor, writer and enthusiast

By Shilpi Madan

Bhavna Harchandrai is one of the most celebrated fitness trainers in the country. A certified ACE-Personal Trainer and NIKE-Group Ex, her Instagram handle describes her as “a fitness instructor, fitness writer, fitness enthusiast”. Bhavna resides in Mumbai and is busy bringing up her 10-year-old son, Rohaan with her better half.

Excerpts from a conversation with Express Parenting:

What is your biggest observation?

Everyone who comes to the gymnasium wants to lose weight. No one talks about muscle strengthening, bettering stamina and improving upon energy levels. I believe people must exercise to stay well, be healthy.

Mothers often say they have no time to exercise…

If you have the will, you will find a way. There is a difference between activity and exercise. Home chores make up activity. The moment we add a challenge to the daily activity, it becomes focussed exercise. In the US and Europe, a fair amount of walking, use of public transport burns calories, tones muscles, brings in better stamina and stability in addition to strengthening the core. The work at home is more hands-on, and in the one hour of exercise they do, they give it their all. In India, the situation is different with home help and nannies. I truly believe that sitting is the new smoking.

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What are the few exercises that you recommend that all women do?

Nothing crazy to damage the knees, but safe, effective cross-training and aspects to challenge your own body. After 25 years of age, each one of us loses 0.5 pound of muscle per year and gains 0.5 pound of fat per year. When people turn 30 they realise they are turning flabby and losing out on energy and stamina. Together with slower metabolism, the kilos pile up slowly. Women must do planks, ab crunches, engaging obliques, leg raises, sit-ups for core strength and muscle tightening.

Some mothers like to do Zumba.

I am a certified instructor. Everything has its own benefits. Zumba is hardcore cardio. You are twisting and dancing, yet the calorific burn is not as high as in strength training that tightens and tones muscles. Diet plus activity plus focussed exercise for 45 mins to an hour brings in fabulous results. Add more load, change exercise routines to constantly stimulate your body. It is not possible even for Aishwarya Rai to stay svelte without any effort!

How does one tackle loss of calcium with age?

With focussed strength training and a personalised exercise regime, our bones absorb calcium better.

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How do you work with Rohaan to bring in fitness?

I walk the talk. Children love superheroes. Rohaan went through this phase and I constantly encouraged him to build upon his strength and energy levels. He is now into athletics and idolises Michael Jordan. He does squats and runs. With children, fostering a sense of accomplishment is very important. Encourage, get them to polish their skills, and then develop a routine to the next level for another level of challenge. But keep your child’s area of interest in mind.

Do both of you work out together?

Very often! I use him as my prop for social media posts too, for my squats and asanas! He matches my steps and it is great fun. When we are on holiday, he attends the free yoga workshop early in the morning. He is the only kid there. Rohaan always feels that if I can do it, so can he. That works beautifully for us and sets the rhythm.

What exercises do you suggest for height increase?

Vajr asana, the cobra pose, playing basketball, trampolining…

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What are you particular about as a mom?

Discipline and diet. Sleep time is at 9 pm for Rohaan. We wind down by 10:30 pm.

He eats aloo puri, chawal…everything. My sister-in-law loves baking. There are baked goodies at home everyday but I ration consumption. It is not easy. No dessert at night. I prepare everything from scratch, including hummus, peanut butter sauce, salsa…no preservatives, refined sugar, maida, white bread at home.

Any parting shot?

Go by the way your jeans fit, not by the weighing scale. If you feel happy, energetic every day and are able to complete tasks daily without feeling exhausted, you are good. With kids, practise what you preach. Be a good role model. Engage and motivate your children to be the best version of themselves.

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