NEW DELHI: Sana Rehman, a resident of Okhla, weighs about 116 kilos. The thought of being unfit bothers her a lot. She joined a gym three years ago, losing about 23 kilos. However, Sana was diagnosed with stage-two cancer in her knee. She had to undergo surgery and now goes for regular checkups every three months. She feels that if only she had not been so into vigorous exercises and was going for regular health checkups, she would have been diagnosed at an earlier stage. She might have prevented the risk.

This is perhaps because Sana attributed her knee pain to the wrong cause, guided in part by gym instructors who lack any professional qualification.

Gym culture has now become a trend. The fitness industry was estimated to be worth 45 billion INR in 2016, with a projected growth at a rate of 16-18%, which is expected to further expand to 70 billion INR in 2017.

"There are gyms in almost every street in Delhi and NCR. This is expanding to two-tier and three-tier cities because of increasing demands among people,” said Istayak Ansari, chief operating officer, Gold’s Gym India.

Anwar Noor, owner of the Gym called Horizon Fitness in Okhla says, "Men are more worried about their looks than women. We have more men enrolled than women.”

A quick look around corroborates the numbers and estimations. Gyms are everywhere. The motive to look a certain why drives men and women of all ages to the gym, with aesthetic considerations overtaking health concerns.

Gym sessions now take precedence over health checkups. Like Sana, many gym goers turn to their trainers for medical advice, asking them to diagnose and fix various pains, strains and other injuries. In Sana’s case, the wrong advice led to a delay in a timely diagnosis by a medical professional. In other cases, the wrong advice aggravates injuries creating life long health concerns.

Gym goers very rarely ask to check the qualifications of their instructor at a gym. In most cases, the instructors do not have any qualification in the first place. Owing to the lack of adequate professional supervision and advice, people often over do working out, never learn correct form, and use machines and weights that are beyond their capacity -- leading to a huge array of risks.

“People these days just watch some youtube videos of fitness, yoga, pilates and squats and consider themselves as trainers. My trainer was not eligible to be a trainer and I got to know that she has never enrolled in any course for fitness training,” said a member of a reputed gym. (The person wishes to remain anonymous).

Over reliance on an under qualified trainer has come at the expense of medical check ups. According to Dr. Ali Saima, senior consultant at Kasturba Hospital, people, especially the younger generation, are reluctant to spend money on regular health checkups. “Membership at Gold’s Gym at Maharani Bagh costs INR 65000, while as health checkup at Apollo Hospital costs INR 4000. However, we see people opting more for the former. They think that they cannot have any severe health problem, which is definitely not true,” she adds.

“People these days opt for shortcuts like steroids, pills and protein for quick results, which definitely makes them look attractive but is not healthy at all. In order to boost their metabolism and to enhance their biceps and they diverge from healthy habits altogether which takes a lot of perseverance,” said Dr. Ali Saima. While looking beautiful has always been a part of the human subconscious, the recent trends towards being fit instead of healthy are worrying indeed, Dr. Saima adds.

Gyms, of course, are making the most of this mindset. “This Valentine let’s fall in love with fitness,” declared one of the banners at the Gold’s Gym. This gym gives a flat 40% discount for couples who enroll together for the membership of the gym. Other gyms have similar signs -- urging potential members to get started and get fit, often accompanying the message with images of fitness models who fit a very particular stereotype.

The huge surge of social media has only added to the mindset that prioritises aesthetics over all else. Instagram and Facebook are full of carefully posed and photoshopped photos of fitness models. This in turn impacts young people, who are now more concerned about how they present themselves on social media. Life appears to be a rat race of likes and comments on posts. This has further aggravated the desire to look better in order to increase the likes on posts, with the ultimate aim being to be popular on social media.