Pandemic Heroes: Meet the 16-year-olds who are helping children keep fit amid COVID-19

Rohan Ray and Akash Raghavan’s COVID Fit Club — an online fitness initiative to enable kids to stay healthy — is offering weight training, cardio workouts, and dance sessions to over 60 participants in Bengaluru.

The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way we work, play, eat, and learn. In fact, business closures, social distancing, and remote working led by the lockdown are fostering inactivity, unhealthy lifestyles, and distress, especially taking a toll on children and adolescents. 

With schools not operating and restrictions placed on stepping out for travel, sports, or extra-curricular activities, many young adults are exposed to stress, isolation, and undesirable habits like binge-watching shows, as well as gaming addictions. 

Rohan (left) and Akash started the COVID Fit Club to promote a healthy lifestyle among kids during the lockdown.

In order to straighten this out, Rohan Ray and Akash Raghavan — two 16-year-old students from Bengaluru — have launched an online fitness initiative to enable kids to stay healthy. 

The duo being staunch sports enthusiasts have always known the significance of exercising and keeping in shape. They started the COVID Fit Club on May 3, 2020, through the video-sharing platform Zoom. 

With more than 60 children participating in their initiative, not only do they engage them in core strengthening, weight training, and cardio workouts, but they also help them learn some fun dance moves. 

Rohan training children on the video-sharing platform, Zoom.

“Most schools stopped functioning and ended up cancelling all their exams after the coronavirus outbreak. Hence, students had nothing to look forward to in their daily lives. This, in turn, resulted in them becoming couch potatoes, having irregular sleep cycles, and experiencing anxiety. Some of our friends were going through it. Akash and I wanted to change this, and promote a culture of fitness among children. That was when we decided to set up the COVID Fit Club,” Rohan tells SocialStory

Promoting the culture of fitness

Born in Boston, Rohan soon moved to India when he was young. Since then, he has been studying at The International School in Sarjapur, Bengaluru. 

After being bullied by many of his friends and peers for being overweight, Rohan turned to sports and gymming. Currently, a national level squash player, Rohan met Akash —  a cricketer and the school captain for sports — in the same school. Gradually, the duo developed an interest in the integral role fitness played in the overall wellbeing of people’s life. 

“Regular physical activity has always had a profound positive impact on relieving stress and boosting our overall mood. We wanted to enable others to enjoy the same benefits,” notes Akash. 

Neev Kiran working out at home.

After brainstorming and putting together multiple workout schedules, they conducted their first demo class in the first week of May. Sooner than expected, many children began joining the online sessions on Zoom. 

One of the firsts to join the fitness sessions, 13-year-old Neev Kiran, says,

“Playing various sports was a crucial part of my daily routine. However, the COVID-19 lockdown caused a setback to this. So, when I heard about Rohan and Akash’s initiative, I signed up for it almost instantly. Now, I feel much healthier and less lethargic.” 

With an increase in demand, the duo roped in other instructors to organise more fitness drills. At present, Rohan and Akash oversee and put together more than 20 sessions in a week for boys and girls between the age group of five and 14. 

Volunteers of Mitti Cafe distributing food to the underprivileged.

“The pandemic brought together a slew of people and organisations, who were more than willing to step out of their comfort zone and offer aid to the needy and troubled – right from NGOs feeding the deprived, to citizen-driven initiatives to help migrant workers get home. We were very inspired by all these noble endeavours. Akash and I too desired to do our bit for the individuals whose livelihoods were at stake, owing to COVID-19. Thereafter, we began charging a fee from the children for the online sessions, only to divert 100 percent of it towards a social cause,” says Rohan. 

The COVID Fit Club works on a subscription-based model wherein, the fee structure is designed depending on the number of classes the participants are willing to sign up for such as Rs 3,500 for 20 classes, Rs 3,300 for 16, and so on. 

In the last one month, the duo managed to raise almost Rs 3 lakh, and have given it all away to Mitti Cafe – an NGO that employs physically and mentally challenged people to cook, as well as maintain food joints. The café, along with its staff, is using the money to feed migrant labourers as part of its COVID hunger campaign. 

“For at least another year or so, people might not hit the gym or take their children along to play in public places like parks or sporting arenas. Thereby, we are planning to continue with our initiative for the next few months,” adds Akash.   
Edited by Suman Singh


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