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Siddhaanth Surryavanshi gym death shows fitness-crazy Indians place looks above health

Gym-goers often easily get influenced by ‘transformation’ posts of actors who put on or lose weight quickly for the part they play on screen.

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TV actor Siddhaanth Vir Surryavanshi passed away Friday at the age of 46 after collapsing at the gym. Known for his roles in serials like Kkusum, Waaris and Suryaputra Karn, Surryavanshi  reportedly collapsed while working out. This is the latest in a series of deaths of Indian male actors who died while working out in the gym.

This year alone, three people associated with acting and who regularly worked out, have died either in the middle of their workouts or right after the gym session. Last year, Siddharth Shukla, a popular actor and winner of the reality show Bigg Boss13, passed away due to a cardiac arrest on 2 September. His death first raised the question of how a man who was barely 40, and who worked out regularly, could die of a heart attack. Just a month later, Kannada actor Puneeth Rajkumar too passed away after his workout. He was 46.

The exact reason that binds all such deaths has still not been answered satisfactorily. But as a number of actors, including Salman Khan’s body-double Sagar Pandey, suffer stroke while working out, there is a need to look at the lengths to which men go to for that ‘Greek god physique’. Even comedian Raju Srivastava had suffered a stroke while in the gym before he succumbed to it.

One of the most commonly used ‘enhancers’ to get a chiselled physique are steroids. From wannabe actors in neighbourhood gyms to actors/celebrities intent on maintaining a fan base with their killer body get killed while aiming for those perfect cuts. Steroid abuse, once rampant only among those wishing to compete in bodybuilding competitions, has found popularity among the general crowd as well. And there are many who don’t care to look at the side-effects involved.

Steroid abuse has other side-effects too — from male-pattern baldness, and testicular cancer to kidney and liver issues. But all is fair in bicep and chest-building.

Also read: Cinema has been unjust to fat people. Disney’s Reflect brings hope

Aesthetics over fitness

One common statement that has cropped up, be it in tributes to many of these actors or news reports, is how they were all ‘fit’. How could they die of heart attack when they took such good care of themselves. In the fitness industry, aesthetics is often placed above health.

The race is toward getting a certain breadth of chest or width of biceps or abs, rather than actually being mindful of lifestyle and nutrition. Add to that the time taken to build a particular physique. Social media to real-life gyms, men who cannot put on muscle quickly are often dismissed as not being ‘serious’ about fitness.

People also easily get influenced by ‘transformation’ posts of actors who put on or lose weight quickly for some roles they play. From Shah Rukh Khan’s breakthrough moment of six-pack abs in the song Dard-E-Disco in Om Shanti Om (2007) to Aamir Khan’s transformation for Dangal (2016), transformations are often seen as the high point of both a performer and a fitness enthusiast. But it is also now about the time taken to build up that enviable physique. The lesser time taken often translates as more ‘serious work’ put into working out.

Add to that a general stressful lifestyle, smoking or alcohol consumption, even if done socially, is perfect recipe for heart problems. India also does not believe in monthly or quarterly health check-ups when it comes to fitness. That means, one is often clueless about the kind of pressure one’s body can endure.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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