Amidst Lockdown: Former Int'l Athlete & Special Forces Doctor 'Maj. Surendra Poonia' Speaks about 'FitBharat'

In an exclusive interview, former Special Forces Doctor, renowned International athlete and now Politician, Major Surendra Poonia (VSM) speaks about his landmark 'FitBharat' campaign.

6 min read

Amidst Lockdown: Former Int'l Athlete & Special Forces Doctor 'Maj. Surendra Poonia' Speaks about 'FitBharat'

Following the announcement that the Indian Prime Minister: Narendra Modi made about the Fit India campaign, former Special Forces officer, doctor, and renowned international athlete, Major Surendra Poonia, VSM, moved by the prime minister’s initiative, has decided to use his decade’s worth of combined military, sporting, and medical experience to promote a spirit of fitness throughout the country; Launching his six month old flagship initiative: FitBharat.

During his time in the Special Forces

Speaking exclusively to ‘The Watchdog News’, the renowned Para Special Forces Officer, who has previously served in the exaltedPresident’s Bodyguard, proudly said, “Being a Special Forces veteran and a medical professional, I believe it is my soldierly duty to continue to serve the country by promoting an environment of health and fitness.” Major Poonia, a devoted soldier, is on a mission to counter the country’s most significant national threat: the silent killer, or rather known as: Lifestyle diseases.

The root cause(s) of these disorders have been linked with a lack of regular exercise which is incessantly coupled by today’s sleep-deprived corporate culture. Being a former military man, the Ex-Special Forces Major came to the conversation armed to the teeth; With facts, and how. The officer explained, that “Lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, poor nutrition and improper sleep cycles are some of the leading causes of health-related ailments in India.” Elaborating on this, he said,“7.1 per cent of the adult population in India are suffering from diabetes. There were an estimated 69.1 million cases of diabetes in India in the year 2015, and it has exceeded to around 70 million as of 2019!

By 2030, almost 100 million of my fellow countrymen will suffer from diabetes.” The former Special Forces Commando says this with fiery conviction! Speaking about widespread obesity, Major Poonia says, “Obesity has become one of the leading health epidemics in the 21st century with morbid obesity affecting approximately five per cent of the national population! This means over 6.8 million Indians suffer from morbid obesity. Being a sportsman it truly pains me to have to acknowledge that over 13.5 crore Indians are morbidly obese!” According to several research papers shared by Major Poonia to ’The Watchdog News’, it has been ascertained that obesity in the country has doubled in the past ten years.

Going by the research presented by the retired officer, it has been found that the urban population and states with higher income groups have a susceptible higher rate of obesity. While conversing with ’The Watchdog News’, Major Poonia shared his observations, splitting the anatomy of the leading causes of obesity and its implications on productivity, self-esteem, mental health, and youth development. The former military medical professional spoke extensively about the surge of junk food, appealing advertisements promoting unhealthy food choices, mobile games such as PUBG and Fortnite, and their adverse effects on the lifestyles of our youth.

“These mobile games have confined the youth in their rooms and have trapped them in a vicious cycle of unhealthy life choices”, he declared,enraged! “A lack of importance given to sports and fitness in educational institutions is disheartening and a cause of grave concern,” says Major Poonia with a sense of genuine concern.

Serving the late president of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in the elite Presdent's Bodyguard

During one of The Watchdog News’s in-depth conversations with the former Special Forces doctor, he stressed on the vital role that educational institutions have to play whilst promoting a spirit of fitness amongst the young school-going students. Major Poonia cited his discontent towards the syllabus of physical education in Indian schools. He says “Even physical education is taught through textbooks, and is evaluated through written exams! How is this physical fitness?”, the commando asks rhetorically.

“This neglect,” he says “results in a generation of academically burdened youth with no outlet to vent their burdens.” Furthermore, they “lose out on so many benefits of taking part in sporting endeavours such as problem solving, teamwork, purpose, camaraderie, overcoming obstacles. This criminal neglect at an early stage follows them throughout their lives!” says the commando with great passion. Touching more on this, he said, “The lack of fitness being imbibed in young children at an early age haunts them when they become working professionals.

The increasingly exploitative corporate work environment has resulted in significant health problems.” Putting out another chilling statistic, the former president’s bodyguard says, “63 per cent corporate professionals are overweight. This leads to heart conditions leading to death as aforementioned. It results in “lowered productivity, leading to stalled career progression, ultimately making an employee feel dejected and stressed.”

This “stress,” the officer says, “results in poor sleep patterns, improper nutrition and host of mood swings affecting one’s mental and spiritual well being. It is an interconnected vicious cycle.” Major Poonia reinforces passionately, the need for regular and sustained exercise whilst eating healthier. “Being an athlete and a soldier serving in the elite special forces, I was fortunate to be in an environment where fitness was prioritised…Soldiering is a high stress a high-risk job, however, what I experienced was that the rigorous fitness regimen we were subjected to, significantly alleviated the stress which came from such a hazardous profession!”

Drawing from his personal observations, the Special Forces doctor empathises with the plight of corporate professionals, further stating, “Corporate professionals play a crucial part in our nation-building process. They are the ones who provide us with essential services, design the softwares and infrastructure required to make our lives easier, and put our country on the world stage. They work tirelessly in the pursuit of nation-building, yet do not get the time or encouragement to give time to their own health!”

Answering questions cited by ‘The Watchdog News’ on what FitBharat hopes to achieve, the ex-commando says, “FitBharat, aims to imbibe a sense of physical fitness not only to our youth who are our future but even working professionals who are building our nation’s present.” Major Poonia stressed on the benefits of exercise in relation to increased productivity at the workplace. “Focusing on personal health will undoubtedly help in enhanced mood and energy levels, resulting in better workplace productivity.” Efficient productivity, he says, “leads to superior output resulting in higher national growth!”

Earning laurels for the country in sports

The former army man further cited, “I believe that if we are physically fit as individuals, we can grow as a community, for me, fitness itself is a major national service!”. Ending the conversation with ’The Watchdog News’ on a positive note, Major Poonia maintains an optimistic mindset towards the success of FitBharat. He speaks about the gradual but increasing trend towards health and fitness in the country, and how more-and-more people are “indeed putting efforts towards their well being.”

When asked upon how he aims to promote the message of FitBharat to his target audience, he replied saying, “We have already started with the Soldierathon, which is a marathon organised once a year, and it has received a great nationwide response. Going on further we aim to tie up with several sporting brands to highlight youth inspiring messages, in order to promote our young guns to take the first step. We shall also partner with sports regulatory bodies and organise inter-college and university sporting events.”

He stresses on the reach of social media platforms and portals like ‘The Watchdog News’ to further the message, saying, “In today’s day and age, social media and youth-based websites are a potent tool, through which we can advocate fitness, give health and nutrition advice to bridge the knowledge gap!” FitBharat intends to come out with hashtag based challenges, hence creating a supportive online community dedicated to one another’s growth! Speaking about his roadmap for the long run, the fit commando said, “Over time, we shall work with the Ministry of Human Resource Development, to develop state of the art sporting facilities in schools and educational institutions to inculcate sports and fitness at a much younger age.”

Being a politician is no excuse not to stay fit

Major Poonia, being a battle-hardened commando, is hopeful but remains a pragmatist by acknowledging the challenges for the road ahead. “See it will not happen overnight, it is not simple to change attitudes and I recognise it will take time and a lot of effort however I am satisfied beyond any doubt that we shall succeed, there is now a tremendous internal drive towards fitness, and this is something that will continue to increase and can be channelised for the betterment of society and the nation at large!”


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