HK Magazine Archive

From Fat to Fit

Feeling like a slob but don’t have time to exercise? Quit making excuses— improving your lifestyle is easier than you think. By Jane Leung

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 January, 2011, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 2:37pm

We Hongkongers have a reputation for our work ethic—but we seem to be running out of breath as we climb our way to the top. When our long working hours combine with the sheer convenience of life in a city of late-night cha chaan tengs and abundant cabs, there’s zero motivation to strap on those sneakers and work out. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Centre for Health Protection in April 2009, 53 percent of Hongkongers do no exercise whatsoever in any given week. “Hong Kong’s infrastructure is built for saving time in a fast-paced life,” says Koen Lam, resident personal trainer at California Fitness (various locations including 1 Wellington St., Central, 2522-5229). “There are too many escalators even for short distances—and you just need to raise your hand and a cab pops up.”

Dr. Szeto King-ho, medical director for the Hong Kong Emergency Medical Centre, also blames our ultra-convenient lifestyle for our unsightly bulges. “The internet, gaming, social networking, and food combined with inactivity is the leading cause of pathological obesity,” says Dr. Ho. And don’t bank on good genetics either. Many elderly people in Hong Kong appear to age well, but the simple fact is that our parents spent more time outdoors than we do. This chronic inactivity is causing health problems such as heart and vascular diseases, hypertension and diabete —which are appearing in people at increasingly younger ages.

The solution? Dr. Szeto prescribes a Total Lifestyle Change—that is, 30 minutes of cardio, five times a week. Sadly, those reports and spreadsheets aren’t going to go away just because you need to hop on a treadmill. But you can make definite improvements to your health by fitting in a little bit of exercise during your working week. Read on to learn how even the busiest working stiff can squeeze in a few relatively pain-free workouts here and there. Soon you'll be doing bicep curls with the office printer and bench pressing the receptionist.

Step 1: Before Work
California Fitness's Koen Lam recommends waking up 15 minutes earlier to squeeze in a workout before heading to the office. Warm up with some jumping jacks to get the heart rate up, followed by some crunches, and then as many push-ups as you can. There doesn't need to be a set routine—this workout is just to increase your metabolism for the day, boost energy, and put you in a good mood.

Take advantage of the morning to load up on carbs, but don’t dig into plain white buns. Koen advises filling up on whole grains, which release their energy slowly—keeping you energized throughout the day.

Step 2: Getting fit at work
Koen suggests replacing your chair with a Pilates ball. The unstable surface will force you to maintain good posture, and your core muscles [the important ones that support your spine and dictate your posture] will be constantly working to keep the ball in place. Koen recommends these strengthening techniques you can take to the office:

• When sitting in your chair, try not to slump forward and rest on your elbows as this posture is bad for your back and promotes a pot belly. Roll your chest up and straighten your back.
• Try gripping your chair's arm rests and doing dips, lowering and raising            yourself in your seat. Everyone else has been sitting in that same sore position, so they’ll understand if you bust this move out at lunchtime. You might even get a group workout going.

“Working out is half the battle,” explains certified personal fitness trainer Mike Abbot—you need to eat well too. As the time starts crawling before lunch, he recommends “snacking on high-carb and fiber foods such as sweet Gala apples or bananas, to curb your hunger. Don’t wait until lunch to eat if you’re hungry, but don’t snack on sweet biscuits and sugary foods either.”

Step 3: Take a class
Why not use your lunch break for something a little more productive than refreshing your Facebook news feed? Find an exercise class close to your office and work up a sweat. You can always eat your lunch al desko afterwards. Like lunch too much? Cut down on your after-work drinking, and go sweat those toxins out in the evening. 

Dance Classes
If motivation (or lack thereof) is a big obstacle to your exercise routine, then have fun while you burn those calories by taking up a dance class. There are plenty of studios around town but Central Dance Studios is located in Central and has a comprehensive evening timetable for after-work get-fitters, with jazz, hip hop, ballet and street dance all on offer.  
1/F, Man Cheung Building, 15-17 Wyndham St., Central, 2537-0713,

For people who are interested in a no-frills, complete boxing experience, DEF Boxing is the joint for you. No matter if you come in for group or private sessions, training at DEF combines drills and sparring to get you in the best mental and physical shape of your life, with a team of experienced trainers catering to professionals and absolute beginners alike. Equipped with a state-of-the-art 20x20 foot boxing ring, speed bags, light/heavy bags, double-end bags, free weights and cable machines, you’re guaranteed to reach your goals—be they conditioning, weight loss, body building, stress relief, strength training—or just plain old boxing training.
15/F, The Pemberton, 22-26 Bonham Strand East, Sheung Wan, 2840-0162.

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu
Versus Performance is a convenient, fun, and challenging place to learn some Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts. Whether you want to learn to kick butt, or meet some really good-looking people, Versus is the place for you. They offer weekday classes starting at 6:30pm and 7:30pm, just a short walk from Central MTR.
16/F, CNT Commercial Building, 302 Queen's Rd. Central, 2851-1929,

For those of us who work the 9-8, commute long distances and juggle kids—or pets—Iso Fit provides tailor-made Pilates sessions to fit any schedule. The club has a variety of machines and exercise systems meant to strengthen the abdomen, back and butt. Pilates dramatically and rapidly improves strength, flexibility, posture and overall alignment of the musculature and skeleton, without increasing bulk—great if you want to be healthier without looking like the Hulk. They cater to personal training goals, budget and scheduling requirements, and—most importantly—they set you up with the workout your body needs.
802-805, 8/F Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43-55 Wyndham St., Central, 2869-8630,

Yoga and More
The stress and speed of life can cause weight gain. Yoga allows you to relax and overcome those anxieties that cause overeating, and Pilates tones you up without those unpleasant sweaty workouts. Pilates and Yoga mega-studio Flex Fit offers early bird and after-work classes, and it will soon be offering lunchtime classes as well. Got a fat family? Flex Fit also has children’s classes, in everything from Yoga and Tae Kwan Do, to jazz, street and hip hop dance.
1/F, Regency Centre (Phase II), 43 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Aberdeen, 2813-2212,

Learn to fend for yourself in a bar fight and tighten up those abs and thighs at the same time. The Ring kickboxing gym promotes the art of Muay Thai by providing quality training and organizing competitions. Facilities include a boxing ring, punch bags, punching and kicking pads, weights, and showers.
Unit E, 2/F, Ho Lee Commercial Building, 17-22 Lan Kwai Fong, 2526-2989,

Tailor-made Workouts
Want to tone without bulk? To do cardio, but keep it low-impact? Everybody has different needs, and Fitness Compass provides personal training with a large variety of techniques to reach your specific goal. After your fitness assessment, trainers will individualize your training module—like suspension training if you want to get strong and lean, or Kettleball training if you’re short on time but want a killer workout.
Optimum Performance Studio, 2/F, 50 Stanley St., Central, 2882-2849,

Step 4: Get professional help
Boot Camp
If you don’t have the motivation to huff and puff on a treadmill, enroll in Boot Camp and have someone else whip you into shape. It's an outdoor exercise program that works out your cardio endurance, strength and muscle toning, all achieved through interval circuit, high-intensity and body resistance training. Qualified trainers provide you with a fun, stimulating experience and motivate you to get fit fast. The program accepts all ability levels and can be found all over the city, including locations in Happy Valley, Central, Clear Water Bay, Stanley, and Repulse Bay Beach.
1101 Cheung's Building, 1 Wing Lok St., Sheung Wan, 6341-4853,

Circuit 25
Circuit 25 is a unique outdoor group training program, where the trainers provide a special strategy that allows groups of people to get fit at their own pace. The idea is that you get 25 seconds to complete your reps at your own speed, instead of counting as a group. The 50-minute-long training session is jam-packed with a variety of cardio, strength and resistance exercises designed to shape and tone the body. Training takes place in locations across the Island and Kowloon. Can’t find a spot close enough? Get four friends together and they’ll make one for you. Session packages start at $150 a session, or a single session is $200.
For “meeting spots” call 2501-0922, or visit

Pure Fitness
Of all the gyms in Hong Kong, why does Pure in particular work for the unmotivated but busy individual? It’s down to convenience. Pure provides workout clothes, towels, and toiletries post-workout. So no need to haul a gym bag into work in the morning, even if it is LV. Looking to hop on the New Year’s get-fit bandwagon? Sign up for a new contract and you get one month pass to all Pure Fitness and Pure Yoga locations in Hong Kong, as well as some free personal training or yoga sessions, guest passes, and two $300 vouchers. Already a member? $2,000 nets you all of the above.
Various locations including 1-3/F, Kinwick Centre, 32 Hollywood Rd., Central, 2970-3366,

Personal Trainers
Big Mike

Known for his no-nonsense, straightforward approach, Big Mike Abbott provides strength and fitness training, as well as weight loss and physique enhancement. He uses basic weight training and aerobic exercise, such as cycling and treadmill, to condition the heart and lungs. Certified by the Asian Academy for Sports and Fitness Professionals and the National Academy of Sports and Medicine, he can also provide nutrition advice.
Call 2540-3982, or visit

Trained in the US, Anne-Marie has ten years’ experience as a personal trainer. She specializes in strengthening and conditioning through Pilates. Most of her clients are athletes seeking to enhance their performance, although she also works with less athletic types. Private, semi-private or group sessions available.
Streamline Pilates Studio, 9/F, 10 Queen’s Rd. Central, 2537-8075.