Nazia Hassan is a certified fitness trainer who specialises in weight-lifting, and strength training. She resides in Sydney, Australia but is currently in Dhaka on a leave.
She is active in social media and has been providing home fitness tips online during the shutdown. She sat for an exclusive interview with The Business Standard and discussed taboos surrounding weight-training and women, benefits of exercise during pregnancy and how to stay fit during this pandemic.
How do you perceive women's fitness? Should there be an age to begin a fitness regime?
Good health and well-being are essential for every human being. Fitness should be an important part of our lives.
In a lot of situations till date, women are still perceived as fragile beings who are criticised. If a man does the same thing and engages in fitness, it is not frowned upon or questioned.
According to research and science throughout the world, fitness should be something etched into our lives from an early age, the earlier the better. Regular physical exercise has benefits that are crucial for our overall well-being.
When did you think you might train to become a fitness expert? Any particular incident that motivated you?
An athletic background has helped shape my knowledge and experience in the fitness industry, seven years into this I decided to turn this into a profession when I became pregnant.
I wanted to tap into an uncharted territory, especially for women in Bangladesh, where pregnancy is treated with very backward notions.
I wanted to take my experience and knowledge and harness it into strength for the hundreds and thousands of women, mothers and daughters to take it seriously.
My vision was to bring light to post and prenatal fitness, and overall health and self-love, regardless of gender and circumstances.
Could you tell us a bit about your training sessions, when and how did you take part in them? Is there any fitness trainer that you look up to?
I started going to the gym to gain strength, I had no set goals to look a certain way when I started training in 2012. I just wanted to be stronger, I wanted a better immune system, and I wanted to find it within myself to change my life for the better.
I trained side by side with my partner Zubi, and we did the same workouts. I can honestly say that he has been a big source of motivation for me. I was not intimidated by the weights.
We trained at Oxygym, we were lucky to be guided by Zico Zaman, the fitness guru at Oxygym, a professional bodybuilder himself.
What needs to be changed in the women's fitness arena in Bangladesh? What is your take on strength training/weight-lifting for women, how important is it for women to do strength training/weight-lifting?
Resistance training, strength training, weight lifting all contribute to an increase in bone density, skeletal muscle mass, release of good hormones that promote sound health both mentally and physically.
These are crucial factors in leading a prolonged healthy life for both sexes, and especially women when they decide to become mothers.
For women in Bangladesh, there is a change in progress, and it makes me happy to see this breakthrough.
Females have 1/10th of the testosterone levels as their male counterparts, due to this we are not equipped to gain big muscles from weightlifting.
Instead, we gain strength, look more toned as we shred fat, we gain stamina and that feeling of power is a boost to our strength and immunity.
What would be your suggestions on staying fit indoors?
Even 20-30 minutes of physical exercise a day can really help us cope with our daily tasks despite being indoors.
We can focus on full body workouts at home and some light stretching / yoga poses to calm our minds and get the good hormones flowing.
Exercises such as sit-ups, jumping jacks, squats, and plank holds can be easily done within the comfort of one's home. Remember to always set aside few minutes for warming up and cooling down.
Any fitness or diet myth busters you would like to share with readers? Any words of inspiration for them?
-Lifting weights make women manly.
This is untrue! We do not have the physiological aspects to become huge without the use of substances like steroids.
-Pregnant women should not do any form of exercise, it may harm the unborn child
False! First of all, every single pregnancy is unique. With guidance and supervision from your OBGYN, you can practice safe exercises.
Some benefits of exercising during pregnancy include reduced backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling, increase energy, and promote muscle tone and endurance.
Last but not the least, we do not need dedicated hours and hours of our time for staying fit. It can be 30-40 minutes a day, three to four days a week, combined with healthy controlled eating habits that can create a foundation of discipline required to stay fit.