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'Now is the time' for a fitness boom in China - Blog.

The latest news, videos and workouts from the Escape Fitness Team.

'Now is the time' for a fitness boom in China

There’s a fitness boom going on in China right now. Driven by millennials and a growing middle class, it’s a rapidly expanding market that has the potential to be one of the biggest in the world. So we spoke to two people on the inside to get their take on the opportunities and challenges of fitness in China.

The Chinese fitness market is catching up fast

According to Kevin Chu of UniFitness, things are changing fast: “Some people think that the Chinese market is slow and lagging behind. But the market is actually very sophisticated in some areas and is growing very quickly. Just like we’ve seen with so many other industries that have blossomed in China before, everything happens very quickly when the time is right. This is that time for fitness.”

Forbes magazine reported in May 2016 on the way that investors are getting very interested in a trend for healthier lifestyles and fitness from young people in China. They reported that ‘the number of gym attendees in 70 major Chinese cities increased by four to five million people each year between 2011 and 2015’. Forbes mentioned that the use of fitness apps is already huge, with Keep and Codoon the two apps with the most users.

Meanwhile, in September 2016 J. Walter Thompson Intelligence ran an article on a Chinese fitness boom. They referred to an IBISWorld report which had compared the Chinese and US fitness markets. Although the Chinese market at $6 billion is way behind the US at $30 billion, market growth in China is almost 12%, compared to just 2.5% in the US. Global brands like Adidas, Nike and Under Armour are investing big in China.

The same article pointed to a number of factors driving this growth:

  • Rising incomes for China’s middle class, and therefore more disposable income for gym memberships and fitness classes.
  • A large and active millennial population.
  • Chinese women more likely to want toned physiques rather than waifish figures.
  • Government backing, with a five-year fitness plan aimed mostly at teenagers, who will likely continue fitness habits as they age.

Building on a tradition of group exercise

China has a tradition of small and large group physical exercise events. A good example is the popularity of community ‘square dancing’ events that are enjoyed by millions of people, especially middle-aged and retired women. It seems as though this tradition will carry over into the next generation too as there’s a thirst for group events across generations.

Hundreds of people took part in an outdoor yoga session in Beijing in August. Tough Mudder China has launched and is planning a major event in Shanghai in May 2017. It’s likely that group fitness in gyms will be huge as more people get into functional training too. Indeed, Escape has already seen lots of interest for our new MOVE IT group training programme.

Education is set to take centre-stage

Kevin Chu of UniFitness believes that educating trainers and members about functional training is vital: “Education is going to be very important as the industry gets fully on board with functional training tools and techniques. Escape has a fantastic suite of training workshops, courses and programming so the future is going to be really exciting."

Jonathan Fekete, Escape’s Regional Sales Manager, continues: “The thirst for great education about fitness is partly driven by the fact that online video sharing and social media is heavily restricted. There’s no access to YouTube or Facebook, for example. In most countries, if you wanted to learn how to use a Bulgarian Bag or kettlebell effectively you just go online. That’s not the case in China, so people have a need for education in their clubs, provided by trainers who are fully qualified in the training tools and styles.

“When I made my first presentation in China, I remember looking up as I presented my first slide, and everyone was taking a picture! And it’s still very much the same. People in China are willing to get the education they need any way they can.”

Bulgarian Bag Tommy

A demand for quality products

Another issue that Kevin is passionate about is product quality: “China is a huge country with enormous manufacturing infrastructure. This means that almost every product launch on the market is soon followed by cheap, low-quality copies. But many clubs and trainers know this and will want to make sure they stick with the quality that only legitimate manufacturers such as Escape can offer."

Jonathan says: “The rise of the middle class is having an impact. They’re becoming less committed to the cheaper alternatives and focusing more on the quality and reliability delivered by reputable brands. More and more, they’re aspiring to the Western lifestyle. Taking the time to go to the gym – and using the most innovative products – is a big part of that lifestyle. They want to be a part of the brand.”

So what about Escape in China?

Escape is fully committed to being a part of the Chinese fitness market, as Jonathan Fekete explains: “Often when we show people Escape’s functional training tools they’ve never seen anything like them. But they are definitely ready for new things and they want to try them out as soon as they see them, even if they’re not sure how to use them properly at first.

“The Escape mix of passion and professionalism is really impressing people in China. We’re continuing to educate and inspire people and getting the message out there that we offer so much more. For example, you just have to come along to one of our shows and see jaws drop to the ground when we roll out the TIYR!"

Kevin concludes: “The Chinese market is vast with many tiers, and it’s really beginning to boom. Escape has a great mix of products, education and programming that is perfect for a Chinese audience and I am incredibly excited about what’s happening.”

Are you part of the Chinese fitness boom?

If you are based in China as a club owner or manager, or a personal trainer, and you are looking for new exercise experiences to offer your members, please get in touch: [email protected]

UK: +44 (0)1733 313 535
USA: +1 (614)-706-4462
Germany: +49 (0)2921 590 10 70