Narendra Modi, ministers and celebrities join in fitness craze everyone in India is talking about

Adam Withnall
The Independent
The actress Saumya Tandon was among those who showed off their favourite exercise routines: Twitter/Saumya Tandon
The actress Saumya Tandon was among those who showed off their favourite exercise routines: Twitter/Saumya Tandon

The Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and prime minister Narendra Modi are among scores of celebrities, sports personalities and politicians taking part in a new fitness craze that has taken the country by storm.

Twitter users have been posting videos of their favourite workouts, varying from press-ups and planks to yoga stretches, and then issuing a “#FitnessChallenge” to others.

The phenomenon appears to have originated with the sports minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, who won silver for India at the 2004 Olympics in the double trap shooting event. After performing an impressive set of press-ups, Mr Rathore wrote: “Post pictures and videos of how you keep yourself fit and send a #FitnessChallenge to your friends on social media.”

Cricket star Kohli was one of the first nominated, and showed off his preferred core exercise - a plank with alternate raised legs. He in turn nominated the prime minister - and Mr Modi responded, writing: “Challenge accepted, Virat! I will be sharing my own #FitnessChallenge video soon.”

With the hashtag receiving prime ministerial approval, other senior members of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP were quick to jump on the bandwagon - to the best of their abilities.

Jayant Sinha, the civil aviation minister, performed some yoga moves, while home affairs minister Kiren Rijiju juxtaposed the very formal setting of his office with a somewhat improvised exercise on a chair.

From the acting world, Saumya Tandon’s video made creative use of two bungee cords, while Anushka Sharma - who is also cricketer Kohli’s wife - completed what seems like a never-ending set of weightlifting.

And other sportswomen and men to get involved included the para-badminton player Manasi Joshi, who skipped without her prosthetic leg, and boxer Manoj Jumar, who climbed a rope using only his arms.

Participation has not exactly gone smoothly for all public figures, however. Some users questioned the technique of singer, actor and BJP politician Manoj Tiwari, who interspersed his press-ups with a selection of poses for the camera.

And in an unlikely turn of events, the official account of the Mumbai Police waded in after the actor Hrithik Roshan filmed himself cycling without a helmet.

Most took the exercise in good spirits, however, and for some it was a logical extension of the “Fit India” movement called for by the prime minister in March.

Now approaching 67 years old, Mr Modi has been keen to show off his personal fitness levels to voters ahead of next year’s general election. Supporters noted the way he trotted up a flight of stairs to his plane departing an informal summit with Vladimir Putin this week.

He is a devotee of yoga, sharing a number of his own pictures and videos showing his exercises in the past, and during his tenure has made a major event out of International Yoga Day on 21 June.

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