India's Olympic and Paralympic stars including men's hockey team skipper Manpreet Singh and para table-tennis player Bhavina Patel feels that there should be an increased focus on physical fitness and mental health of youngsters given the lifestyle changes forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Manpreet and Bhavina were speaking at the National Youth Festival's virtual session titled 'Sports - A Unifier for Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat'.
Tokyo Olympics bronze-medallist boxer Lovlina Borgohain, Indian women's hockey team captain Rani Rampal and Parlympics bronze-medallist high jumper Sharad Kumar were also present for the session.
"Fitness is not just physical. There is mental fitness as well. Everyone should understand that life becomes a lot easier when you are fit. Your health remains good, you stay happy and positive," said Bhavina, who became the first-ever Indian paddler to win a medal at the Paralympics with her silver in Tokyo. "So, every person should try a become fit. Staying fit is not just for sportspersons but good for everyone," she added.
Since the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc all over the world. Educational institutions have resorted to online classes and in such circumstances, Rani said it has become even more important to engage children in physical activities.
"Children are having a lot of online classes nowadays because of the pandemic but I request parents to send the children outside so that they have some physical and brain activity," she said.
"This will help in their growth. I am not saying everyone has to make sports their profession but children should be sent outside to plays so that they become healthy," Rani added.
Manpreet, who led the men's hockey team to an Olympic bronze medal, praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for promoting fitness among the youth via various schemes like the Fit India campaign and the Khelo India Games.
"Youth is our future and to take a country forward one must invest in youth. Our PM is focussing on this a lot. He knows youth is the future.
"He started Khelo India (Games) and Fit India campaign and the performance that we got in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics shows that and India’s future is very bright," Manpreet added.
( With PTI Inputs)