Changing the way we view fitness in Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Changing the way we view fitness in Sri Lanka

27 December, 2020
There is a trend to participate in new fitness activities by a minor group; however, it’s a long way to go for the majority of the population.
There is a trend to participate in new fitness activities by a minor group; however, it’s a long way to go for the majority of the population.

We see quite a lot of people talking about various topics related to fitness. Despite the many technological responses and awareness, there are no sufficient innovative solutions that have an absolute impact on the individual’s health and wellness. We need to build a healthy Sri Lanka, and to build a future generation which values healthy lifestyles; to have fathers living long enough to see their children grow up and be there for their grandchildren as well. If we don’t make this change today, we’ll continue to see a decline in the nation’s health and wellness standards. We have to strengthen our immunity to our best, beginning with changing the way we view exercise, fitness and activity.


Today, many degenerative and non-communicable diseases are destroying lives and families, primarily due to lack of knowledge and not having access to organised, vital and fundamental physical activity structures without paying a steep price. The conventional annual memberships are outdated and archaic. In this day and age, people look for access to any physical activity facility or service, at their convenience, suiting their desired budget and location.

I’ve seen a significant number of people coming to the gym for the first time, and then there is a group that has been around from their young adult life, and this group holds higher appreciation for activities and trends that have evolved throughout. There is a trend to participate in new fitness activities by a minor group; however, it’s a long way to go for the majority of the population. However, only less than a mere 1 percent of the total population is into fitness and exercises.

Uplifting lives

My philosophy in life is about serving, uplifting and strengthening others especially those who are disadvantaged, ignored, forgotten, helpless and are underdogs. I recall never asking from my single parent mother for anything. I love to see the impact and contribution I make so I chose to build affordable gyms to give access to quality facilities to those who cannot. The 1996 Cricket World Cup winning team benefited from working out at my gym, with Sanath Jayasuriya discovering his true gift here. From thereon, almost every Sri Lankan national team, clubs including school-level have trained at my gyms, free.

In 2000, I pioneered the sports nutrition manufacturing industry. Later in 2007, I hosted the Edge Grand Prix, a series of track and field championships. I also launched, funded and backed the ‘Loin Warrior Sports High Performance Program’ for five years, training and sponsoring nutrition needs for over 40 Sri Lankan champion sportsmen. Today we see this wisdom embedded in the fabric of all sports, that performance nutrition and strength training must go hand in glove.

I donated fully equipped gyms to the Welisara, Mahara and Bogambara prisons. I noticed that 80 percent of prisoners seemed to have begun their life of crime after they first stole food to feed their children. No child must be denied food to such an extent that a father must steal to feed them.

Seeing the devastating impact the Dengue epidemic had on families at its peak, I took on the leadership to fight it by launching the ‘Death to Dengue’ campaign in association with the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) and that war continues to date.

I also hypothesized that, if the sporting talent of a child could be predicted early enough, with a high-level of accuracy, the chances of competing to become world champions across all sports, when talented children reached their physical maturity, is possible. This gave birth to a first of its kind predictive algorithm-based system. Today, seven years later testimonies of children confirmed the prediction was accurate.

Pandemic and its effect on fitness

The first wave of the novel coronavirus that hit us really took us by surprise. The physically active group suddenly realized how invaluable the exercises they were doing. There was a massive decline in health stature, people gaining weight and diets were out of control. With the second wave now in, we need to organise, prepare and participate in various outdoor activities. We need to boost our immunity, go out and be active. Research shows that outdoor activities pose a lower risk of virus spread. Currently many only have access to walking pathways.

The State’s role in fitness development

One of the commendable things done is building pathways. This has motivated even a regular person to walk, cycle or jog. However, if we really want to change their mentality and get them into fitness, both the nutritional and exercise sciences have to get involved. This is where organized activity comes into play. One should have a total physical transformation, and to do this you need certain equipment with facilities, and instructions from those who really understand the science. That’s where gyms play a key role. I believe the state sector needs to heavily invest in such infrastructure and carry out awareness and engaging programs at a ground-level.

Technology versus the human touch

Though technology has brought about convenience, one cannot take away the human touch. In my experience, I have seen that people are able to achieve higher levels of fitness because of another human being. The connection between two people encourages and motivates like no technology could. We have many fancy tracking devices for example but this is only feedback, what’s critical is what to do with all that data; how to use it for yourself to achieve the desired outcome. Exercising is a discipline that is embedded into one’s lifestyle over time; it takes a lot of hard work and commitment.

The need of the hour

I’ve seen many gym members joining with tremendous excitement and because of their demanding lifestyles they are unable to sustain a continuous training regime to achieve their desired fitness goals. Times have changed and people look forward to experience and enjoy a full cross section of various exercises, recreations, adventure, sports, coaching among various others.