Redefining strength in the post-pandemic world

Dubai - Fitbit teamed up with wknd. conversations to host an interactive session at Dubai Fitness Challenge, Kite Beach Fitness Village


Somya Mehta

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(From left to right) Prateek Kewalramani, Jessica Smith and Malavika Varadan
(From left to right) Prateek Kewalramani, Jessica Smith and Malavika Varadan

Published: Thu 25 Nov 2021, 6:00 PM

What’s wrong with me? Many of us can relate to this thought having crossed our minds at some point or the other. When talking about self-compassion, mental health advocates often point out that most people don’t speak to themselves in the same way as they would to a dear friend. Why is it that when we hold the mirror to ourselves, the gaze inadvertently becomes tainted with scrutiny instead of a warm embrace? The same mirror, when pointed to those we hold dearly, asks a different question: What’s STRONG with you? And immediately, the energy changes.

On November 21, Fitbit teamed up with wknd. conversations, to host the sixth edition of the series, taking this question to the audience members. The interactive panel discussion that took place at Kite Beach Fitness Village, also home to the Dubai Fitness Challenge 2021, focused on the topic of ‘Redefining Strength’.

For the fifth anniversary of the Dubai Fitness Challenge, which has been in full-swing over the past month, Fitbit has made a comeback as its official health and wellness partner, encouraging Dubai residents to partake in a range of fitness and wellness activities for at least 30 minutes per day.

Overlooking the sunlit waters, fitness enthusiasts and expert panelists gathered for an engaging discussion spotlighting the changing definition of strength and resilience in the post-pandemic world. The panel comprised of Malavika Varadan, Founder and Managing Director, The Hive, Australian Paralympic swimmer Jessica Smith and Prateek Kewalramani, Head of Marketing - MEA, Fitbit at Google.

The panelists approached health from a holistic point of view, fostering a conversation around the connecting pillars of health such as sleep, stress and heart health that lay the foundations of our physical and mental strength. “It’s a question that we should ask ourselves every single morning when we look in the mirror,” said Malavika, a former RJ and Dubai Fitness Challenge ambassador. “As opposed to asking, ‘What’s wrong with me?’, why my eyebrows look wonky, why my teeth don’t look great and all the funny curves we don’t want to look at, our focus should be on the question — What’s strong with me?” she added.

Jessica, a body image and disability activist, was born without her left arm. Suffering a horrific accident when she was a toddler, where she sustained burns to 15 per cent of her body, she defied odds and went on to represent her country in the sport of swimming for seven years, culminating in her selection onto the Australian Paralympic team in 2004.

During the discussion, she acknowledged how this has been as much a mental battle as it’s been a physiological one. “The doctors tried to fix me, but the issue was that I wasn’t broken,” said

Jessica. “And this is something I’ve had to fight my entire life, the difficulty of adapting to a world that simply wasn’t built for me. What I believe is my strength is what society would perceive to be my weakness,” she added.

The newly introduced Fitbit devices like the Fitbit Charge 5 and Fitbit Sense aid this holistic approach to health, by incorporating features like EDA sensors that keep factors such as stress at the forefront of Fitbit’s health assessments. “Everybody has experienced some form of stress, whether it’s stage fear, doing an office presentation or speaking to someone you’re trying to impress. The EDA scan can detect these small electrical changes in the sweat level of your skin. Measuring your EDA responses can help you understand your body’s response to stressors and help you manage your stress,” said Prateek, adding that Fitbit also gives us a stress management score.

“This is an invention only our generation can benefit from,” said Malavika, adding that the ability to monitor our stress levels and therefore, to manage that, is perhaps one of the most important advantages of new-age wearable technology.

Jessica, who’s trained professionally as an athlete, recalled that when she would gear up to hit the 220-bpm mark during her aerobic exertion, she’d also actively monitor how quickly her heart rate returned to the resting state. “Obviously, the goal is to push ourselves with exercise but how quickly are we able to recover?” she asked. “How much we prioritise the recovery part is also very important, to make sure that our resting heart rate is at the optimal level,” the Paralympian added.

To monitor such factors, innovation in fitness technology has allowed wearables like Fitbit to incorporate new features like the “Daily Readiness Score” that determine whether we’re ready for exercising each morning.

“Based on personalised insights from your body such as activity, sleep and heart-rate variability, if your body is not ready for a workout, your Fitbit will guide you to prioritise recovery instead,” mentioned Prateek. “Then the app directs you to the appropriate workout, yoga or mindfulness content within Fitbit Premium” he added. The evening concluded with some practical fitness tips, to make the most of your workout sessions as well as a blank canvas for each audience member to define what’s ‘strong’ with them.

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