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Moscow’s Magic OTC Meds

February 2015

By Maria Petrova, Moscow

For Russians, and especially for those from Moscow and other large cities, February is the time to start preparation for spring and summer. As everyone looks forward to wearing less heavy clothes, getting in shape becomes the priority. Most people do not trust “chemicals,” medicines or slimming cocktails that substitute meals, and prefer to dedicate more time to sport activities. Besides traditional skiing, yoga and cardio exercises, spinning and cycling has been gaining more popularity.

Moscow has a great potential for spinning studios to set up businesses. Currently we have an option to attend spinning classes in the gyms with annual memberships (and in most Moscow gyms it is not possible to pay the fees monthly, be prepared to pay USD 1000 to USD 6000 for a year immediately!)

For spinning classes in my gym Santé Fitness you have to come in advance, or the bikes are taken. “Spring is coming,” the trainer says apologizing to those who had to use the normal treadmill instead of the class. Many people are trying to slim down before the warm season, and spinning is one of the top choices. It is easier on the joints than running and you can regulate the intensity of the exercise making it suitable almost for everyone.

The gym has also set up their own technology apps with class schedules, where you can set up your own alarm clocks to never miss a class.  Apps such as Seven Minutes has also become very popular to help keep in shape.

Mountain biking is also on the rise, and some friends now prefer biking trips abroad instead of skiing this winter. Meanwhile Thai Boxing studios have already been opening in Moscow, for example Rocky Road Gym. Boxing is also very popular among females, with some studios like Bulat Gym offering classes especially for women.

Sports apparel with Olympic symbols still remains popular, as long as it is not dressing head to toe in the uniform of the Russian team. Having an item or two with Sochi 2014 while skating or skiing near Moscow is still cool. My friends recently rented skates without a deposit thanks to gloves with a Sochi sign!

While I am not aware of any friends taking magic pills to lose weight, there is certain class of medicines that is popular only in Russia - drugs that help strengthen your immune system. Amexin, Kagocel and Cikloferon are among the most well-known brands. The main mechanism of action of these drugs is to stimulate the body's own proteins providing antiviral and immunomodulatory effects. (They can be bought without prescription in any Russian pharmacy).

These over the counter drugs are supposed to help your immune system, prevent colds, and combat viruses. They are hardly ever used anywhere in the world besides Russia and the former Soviet countries.  Doctors' opinions vary greatly. Some believe that these medicines are very harmful in the long run, while others recommend them to their patients. From personal experience they do help, and you take such pills when a cold is just about to start, you may be saved from falling ill. What adverse effect they may have when we get old is not possible to know, since no official research that measures long term effect was done.

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