Former India football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia believes that Indian athletes are not far off from the physical fitness levels of European athletes.
He feels that there is a difference in the physical build of the athletes from Europe and those from the Indian subcontinent. But in the recent past, athletes, across sports in India, have given fitness prime importance and are consistently working towards bridging this gap, states Bhutia.
Bhutia was sharing his views at the FIt India Dialogue, hosted by Indian Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Sunday. He asserted that any fluctuations in physical conditioning can always be solved by hard work and proper diet.
The 44-year-old was the first Indian footballer to sign a contract with a European club when he joined English outfit FC Bury in 1999.
"I am currently in Sikkim. I don't train like I used to do during my playing days. I do cycling and mountain biking. My place is great for these sports. I also had to control my food habits. These things help me keep fit," the former Indian striker said.
I think there is not much difference in fitness between Indians and foreigners. But there are differences in the physical build though. Fitness levels may fluctuate but you can always work and get back to the best shape. Indians can match the fitness levels of Europeans with hard work.
"If you even don't become a professional sportsperson, even then you should try to remain fit as it will help you remain sharp," he added.
Indian badminton legend Pullela Gopichand was also part of the conversation and he highlighted the importance of Yoga in improving physical fitness.
Gopichand, the second Indian to win the All England Badminton Championship in 2001, said that he practices Surya Namaskar.and it has helped him maintain his fitness during difficult times.
Gopichand, who has trained world class talents like Saina Nehwal and PV Sindu, also congratulated the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government for their focus on fitness among Indians.
"I like to do Yoga. I am a big fan of Surya Namaskar. I had many injuries during my playing career. I have modified the Surya Namaskar a bit to suit my needs. I used to do it 108 times so that it becomes an endurance exercise as well," Gopichand said.
"This is for the first time in our country a Prime Minister is talking so incessantly about fitness. We should have taken this initiative much earlier and I am happy that this government is doing so much. We worked on literacy but we should work on physical literacy as well. It is time that Indians become physically literate," he added.