Raz, Dva, Tri: Getting Fit with Russians

When most think of Russians and athletics, their success in winter sports comes to mind.  Sure, we think of hockey players, figure skaters, and gymnasts but does the average Ivan maintain personal fitness?  The answer is “da,” but more so today than a decade ago.

Previously, communal physical fitness was enforced during Soviet times under the GTO Program.  When the regime fell, so did interest in fitness because people had the option to work out, a plethora of other freedoms to explore, and of course, many other responsibilities.

In more recent years, fitness centers started popping up and global health trends picked up in Russia.  Typically you find men into boxing and weight-lifting while women are more commonly engaging in classes like yoga, Zumba, and step classes.  Just like anywhere else, access to the Internet is also developing the dynamics of fitness routines in Russia.

Last month alone, Yandex received 1,360,938 search queries for the term “fitness.”  Users searched for fitness routines to view online and locations of gyms.  On Youtube, several fitness tutorials and classes can be found.  Most popularly, Russian women search for fitness programs to lose weight and work out at home.  Russians also connect on social media to discuss, share, and support one another on fitness related topics like workout plans and healthy diets.

Вконтакте fitness and diet group

Many have turned to athletics voluntarily but other signs point to a country-wide public commitment to health.  Before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia this past year, videos of Russia’s “Squats for Subway Tickets” swept the Internet, bringing praise and an appreciation for physical health.  In the past year, successful bike sharing systems have been implemented in Moscow, Kazan, and St.Petersburg – another Western trends picking up speed in Russia.  Although you will still see many people rollerblading in Russia.  Mainly people pick parks and designated areas to roller-blade and jog, rarely will you see this happening elsewhere.

In March 2014, Russia re-implemented the Soviet GTO Program, which went into effect September 1, 2014.  The modern version of the program  is intended to attract more Russian citizens to physical fitness, awarding gold, silver, and bronze badges to children, women, and men who complete physical fitness tests under the program’s standards.

We can expect to see better fitness levels and a commitment to healthier