Fit and trim
24-hour unmanned gyms meet needs of busy Shanghai office workers
According to the latest research released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Shanghai residents’ average spare time per day is only about 2.14 hours.
The intensity and overtime of their work does not allow office employees much free time to get fit.
But the increasingly popular 24hour unmanned gymnasiums are meeting their needs.
Compared with traditional gyms, 24-hour unmanned gyms occupy smaller areas but are fully stocked with various athletic equipment.
Their membership fees are not necessarily less expensive than traditional gyms, but the flexible access makes them popular among metropolitan gym-goers who live a fast-paced urban life.
By scanning their membership cards, members can enter a 24-hour unmanned gymnasiums on Tianshan Road in Changning district without any complicated registration process. The card-activated door and turnstile gate assure that only registered members can get in.
According to Zhang Lei, a staff member of the gym, the Tianshan branch alone has over 3,000 members.
Occupying an area of 790 square meters, the self-help gym provides all kinds of sports equipment, from aerobics such as treadmills and stationary bicycles, to anaerobic equipment. The gym also has a strength-training area with an array of dumbbells.
“Generally speaking, I am satisfied with the facility and service provided by the 24-hour unmanned gym. Of course, if the gym can have a swimming pool too, then it would be perfect,” said Mao Jian, a member of the 24-hour gym.
Living near the gym and attracted by its 24/7 service, Mao immediately applied for membership. “Usually, traditional gyms open at 9 am and close at 10 pm. So it is impossible for me to use a traditional gym,” Mao said.
According to Zhang, peak hours of the 24-hour gym are from 7 pm to 10 pm on weekdays. But there are fewer gym-goers on weekends.
“Usually, the facilities are in full use Monday night through Thursday night. But during off-peak hours such as workday mornings or weekend evenings, there are sometimes fewer than 10 people using the facilities,” Mao said.
Another gym user surnamed Ma living near the gym happened to see the facility one day as he walked by.
“I chose this gym mainly because of its 24-hour service. My working hours are unfixed. It is inconvenient for me to play sports after work in the evening. So I usually use the gym around 6 am on weekdays. And then I can allocate my time freely,” Ma said.
“My friend recommended this gym to me,” said another gym-goer surnamed Lü, who usually exercises on weekend mornings.
“It is attractive to me because of its flexible hours. Since my work is busy, I cannot get up early in the morning. But a 24-hour gym has no time limit, which is more suitable for me.”
In recent years, many traditional gyms have attracted greater numbers of ordinary people with their low membership prices and aggressive and high-profile sales tactics. But many Chinese personal trainers also work as salespersons to up-sell additional classes for a commission, which can be annoying for gym users.
Compared with traditional gyms, the membership fees of some 24-hour gyms are no less expensive.
Take the 24-hour gym located at Tianshan Road for example: its oneyear membership price is 2,588 yuan ($383), two years cost 2,988 yuan, and three years 3,588 yuan, roughly the same as traditional gyms.
It also provides short-term membership from one to six months with membership fees ranging from 500 yuan to 2,000 yuan.
However, since only two to three staff members are at the gym to manage daily operations, gym-goers are exempted from the constant disturbance of aggressive marketing tactics employed by Chinese trainers and salesmen.
“Apart from the 24-hour service, another aspect of the unmanned gym that is attractive to me is that there are no personal trainers who force you to buy their classes. I can do sports myself without being disturbed,” said Mao.
Open around the clock, there is usually staff on duty early in the morning or late at night.
“There is an access control system at the entrance, so even if there is no gym staff on duty at night, I don’t feel unsafe,” Mao explained.
Regarding accidents, injuries and even deaths that have occurred in some traditional gyms in recent years, Ma added that ordinary gym-goers should have basic knowledge about their physical conditions before they attempt any heavy lifting or strenuous exercises.
“Sudden death cases happen due to their own cardiovascular diseases or excessive exercising. I think most people won’t suffer from such extreme cases,” Ma said.
From top: Working out; Scene from a 24-hour unmanned gym in Shanghai