From New York to Mumbai: Mallika Parekh's journey to revolutionize fitness in India 🏃🏾‍♀️

Meet Mallika Parekh, a health & wellness expert, and the owner of Physique 57 India.

Having spent her career studying and researching medical science, she advocates the importance of staying fit and healthy to improve all aspects of our lives and to prevent illness in later life. In her search for something holistic, she discovered Physique 57, an innovative Interval Overload based workout that originated in New York, which she then brought to Mumbai in 2018.

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How do you define “fitness” or being “fit”? 
I believe in working out to celebrate what our body can do, not punish it for what it can’t. While we can’t deny that aesthetics is a common motivator for most people to turn to fitness, I think that feeling strong, empowered and mentally relaxed must take precedent, especially during these times.

What role do you think mental fitness plays in one’s overall fitness journey? What do you do for your own mental fitness?  
I don’t take lightly the role that fitness can play in bringing about peace of mind and balance. For my own mental fitness, I workout 3-4 times a week at a minimum because it is time dedicated to myself, which is crucial when balancing work, family and other obligations. I also tune out the noise, even if it’s for a few minutes a day with a good show or book. And finally, a digital detox always works wonders!

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Can you take us through your personal fitness journey? 
As a girl who struggled through her teens and twenties with sports-related injuries, and got bored at the gym, I realized I needed a workout method that was both safe and effective, and that I didn’t need to hurt my bones to get results. Through the Physique 57 method, I discovered strength that carried me through my early adult years, as well as through a twin pregnancy, C-section recovery, and a 35 kg postpartum weight loss among other personal life-changing circumstances. Physique 57 allowed me to rediscover fitness.

What was the inspiration behind starting Physique 57 in India? What is your vision for the company? 
While I was studying and researching medical science in America, I understood the importance of staying fit and healthy to prevent illness in later life. I also realized that Physique 57’s fitness method offers a high-intensity yet low-impact workout, via their innovative philosophy of Interval Overload training, precisely choreographed to produce maximum results in minimal time. I am working on a venture with the aim to offer India specialized, disease-focused healthcare. I have developed a holistic program that combines nutrition, physical and mental fitness, and evidence-based medicine as a functional approach to healthcare. 

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The company will focus especially on women’s health, orthopedic health and lifestyle diseases, and I am working towards establishing best-in-class medical infrastructure, both online and offline across the country over the next few years.

Through my research on local healthcare in India, I realized the lack of emphasis on bone and muscle health in Indian culture and medicine. This was a disconcerting discovery, given that Indians have a lower bone density than most other populations worldwide. I knew then that my favourite workout method, Physique 57, backed by science and some of the world’s best physicians, would have a place in India.

What makes Physique 57 programs unique?
The Physique 57 method is designed to meet you where you are in your fitness journey. It is a low-impact and rehabilitative form of exercise that combines the most effective elements of cardio, strength training and stretching effectively to redefine one’s body from the very first class. Anyone, whether you are a fitness novice, recovering from an injury or pregnancy, pregnant, or a professional athlete, can benefit from Physique 57. Because of its low-impact nature and focus on bone density, it is as suitable for adolescents as it is for senior citizens!

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Have you noticed a general shift in perspective towards fitness and living a healthy lifestyle during the pandemic? 
Definitely. The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted the fitness industry into the healthcare sector, once and for all. Gone are the days when only the fit became fitter, or fitness was only discussed with a personal trainer. The biggest shift one can anticipate in the health and fitness industry is the movement from occasional fitness toward sustainable fitness. Fitness options will increasingly revolve around methods that clients can consistently engage in for many years to come.

A global pandemic has us all tuning into how we feel, physically and mentally. Aesthetics will take a back seat, while feeling strong, mentally relaxed and empowered will be paramount. Given that fitness won’t revolve around deadlines, low-impact but high-intensity routines that sculpt muscle, trim waistlines and promote overall functionality without bone and joint pain will experience higher demand. People are more likely to be patient with results, in exchange for their overall musculoskeletal and mental health.

Any tips for people who are struggling to fit exercise in their everyday routine? 
I would say select workouts with little to no equipment, which can still be effective using items you can find easily around the house. Don’t put pressure on yourself or your family members to create excess space—usually a mat’s worth of space can still give you an effective workout. Choose a virtual workout that is live, whether it’s a group or private class, through a medium in which a trainer can still pay attention to and correct your form and alignment and ensure accountability. Break up the day with a workout to keep ‘lockdown’ days from feeling too restrictive and monotonous.

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One fitness fad that you just don’t get: 
Anything that promises instant results doesn’t make sense to me. Fitness is a journey and should be practiced throughout one’s lifetime—not even cosmetic surgery can get you instant results without some damage to the tissue around it and downtime required! I also am not comfortable with fitness methods that don’t have scientific research that backs up their efficacy.

Who is your fitness inspiration?
Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce—they are both twin moms, and they definitely show us that being strong is sexy.

Apart from work and working out, what constitutes your everyday routine? 
Spending as much time as I can with my daughters and husband, for as long as my eyes are open!

Describe the last time you took time out for yourself? 
Every time I take a Physique 57 class.

What little luxury do you indulge in everyday?

What does jewellery mean to you? 
I love all types of jewellery—the smaller and more delicate pieces as well as statement pieces. I love unexpected pairings - jewellery that pops nicely against clothing without one overshadowing the other.

What piece of jewellery is close to your heart and why?
My engagement and wedding rings, and a necklace passed down to me from my grandmother who went to medical school and became a physician after having three children, and who worked hard to earn the stones and pearls that she ultimately designed this necklace with.

Do you have any tips for budding fitness entrepreneurs?  
Don’t fall for trends. Do your research and listen to science. Make sure you realise that you are in the service business, and putting sustainable health and wellness forth to your clients is paramount.

You can check out Physique 57 on Instagram @physique57india


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