Strenuous physical exercise was regarded as faintly ridiculous in traditional China. Why, the reasoning went, would wealthy, leisured people choose to get hot and sweaty (and, even worse, risk looking like a sun-darkened coolie) by running about in the open air after a ball? Hiking in the mountains was the exception, but even these excursions were mostly a gentle search for an ideal picnic spot from which to observe the moon or the sunrise while composing some poetry or playing the lute, rather than physical exertion for its own sake. Like many other innovations that started in China in the early 20th century - however 'politically incorrect' it may be to state the fact these days - the serious exercise trend spread from Hong Kong and the treaty ports, where the idea of mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) was fashionable among westerners. Sporting clubs and geen hong sut (healthy rooms) have operated in Hong Kong since the 1920s; many became associated - however loosely - with triad gangs. Certain gyms remain popular hang-outs for gangsters - the number of ornately worked dragon tattoos on display in the changing rooms is a give-away. Several men's body-building clubs opened in the 50s. Anecdotal evidence suggests these were also clandestine meeting points for Hong Kong's then legally circumscribed homosexual fraternity. Middle Bay, the scenic sandy cove just beyond Repulse Bay, was a popular gathering place in the summer months for these athletic groups to - um - show off their pecs and biceps. In recent years, gyms and fitness centres have sprung up all over Hong Kong, with the body beautiful as the explicit aim. Just sign up, hand over your credit-card details and in no time you will be transformed into that gorgeous toned babe or muscular hunk sprawled across magazine pages. If I understand the advertisements correctly, this miraculous makeover will occur after a minimal amount of physical exertion. The legislation the Consumer Council wants to implement to protect against unfair, misleading or deceptive conduct in the marketplace can't come soon enough to 'Asia's World City'.