Gyms cash in on China’s ‘fitness fever’ as women pursue that healthy glow
Chinese motivated to keep fit as they follow fad of posting workout selfies online
Foreign workout videos have rapidly gained popularity in China where “fitness fever” has swept the nation.
Last month, Shanghai office lady Zhu Ling posted a photo on WeChat of herself in a yellow sports bra, flaunting firm, flat abs and shapely, muscular arms.
The picture quickly gained more than 40 “thumbs ups” from friends, with some praising her “model-like” figure.
Zhu says positive feedback from her friends motivates her to stick to her daily exercise routine using an aerobics workout video by South Korean fitness guru Jung Da-yeon.
“Almost every girl in my office does aerobics with Jung,” Zhu, 28, said. “We do it at least four days a week in our meeting room during lunch break. It’s simple, effective and easy to do at home or in the office.”
Jung, 49, a housewife with two kids, lost 20kg in three months by following a strict diet and exercise plan. She shot to fame in South Korea, Japan and China after publishing her diet books and workout videos.
Jung has millions of Chinese fans. It is estimated that links to her aerobics videos on Youkou and Tudou – the country’s two leading video-sharing platforms – have exceeded 700 million.
“A nice figure has become a fundamental need for more and more Chinese women in big cities,” said Lian Dao, founder of Shanghai-based fitness website Yesshou.com.
“It’s not hard to feel the ‘fitness fever’ by counting how many of your friends have shared their gym pictures on WeChat lately. So we think it’s the right time to introduce Jung’s fitness concepts to China in a more complete manner.”
Yesshou.com entered a joint venture with Jung in March to develop an online booking app and run women-only gym chains in China so members can learn Jung’s aerobics routines from professional coaches rather than just from videos.
The gyms – the first of which will open in Shanghai this month – will offer fitness classes, light meals, Korean-style spa services and even a coffee area.
“Most women find it a drudgery doing exercises in gyms. But we hope to create a joyful, relaxing atmosphere, and to encourage our members to share their experience together,” Lian said.
Also trying to cash in on the booming fitness market is Wang Tianhua, owner of the newly opened CrossFit Slash gym in Sanlitun, Beijing.
The gym, which opened last month, drew nearly 700 members in just four weeks, more than half of them women. Members pay 1,600 yuan (HK$2,000) a month for unlimited entries or 1,400 yuan for 12 classes.
“China’s gym market has reached the point where consumers are willing to pay good prices for good services. But you must ensure what you’re offering is really good,” Wang said, adding that he broke even in the first month of operating the gym.
CrossFit Slash departs from exercises taught in traditional gyms, its owner said. Members practise crossfit, a high-intensity interval workout programme from the United States, which adopts elements from various sports including weightlifting, skiing, rowing and gymnastics.
People are encouraged to practise in small groups using equipment such as dumbbells, pull-up bars and jump ropes.
One of the gym’s members is Yang Yang, who works at a bridal store. She takes morning classes at the gym with a friend three times a week.
“I follow a number of celebrities on Weibo, and you know what? Their number of fans often increases after they post a gym picture,” Yang said.
“It’s not only because they look prettier and healthier with regular exercise, but it also reflects that these celebrities are people with perseverance and good self-discipline. I hope I can also do a good job in this aspect.”