Monday, February 23, 2009

Gyms In Good Shape Amid Lean Times

“With more time on their hands because business is slow, and with stress levels rising as they struggle to deal with the economic downturn, more people are turning to fitness as a salve. Gyms and fitness centres are seeing a marked increase in patronage. A Straits Times check of seven local fitness chains shows that all have seen membership figures soar by 10per cent to 100per cent over the past six months. Two budget gyms showed the largest jump. One, Fitness Force, with one outlet at a community centre at Cairnhill, has seen membership double to 300. It charges $65 a month. The other, women's gym Contours Express, has reported a 30per cent membership increase at its three gyms - to a total of 600 members. Members pay $59 each a month. Three other chains - ClubFITT, Sky Fitness and Speed Institute - showed a 10per cent to 17per cent increase. 'Numbers are really picking up,' said Fitness Force owner Keith Tan, 35. He says most of the new members are working adults between the ages of 25 and 50. 'We thought the recession would mean fewer people signing up, but the opposite happened.' A check with the latest Yellow Pages directory shows there are now 70 listings under the health club and gym categories, up from 53 listings in the 2007-2008 edition. This fitness frenzy is reflected in a Mastercard survey taken here in January, which measured what 400 people will be spending their money on in the next six months. The fitness and wellness industry had the second-highest resilience index score at 73, after the property and renovation category, which came in first at 77. This, said Singapore Sports School assistant director of sports Chan Wai Lin, is not surprising because 'in times of recession, people look for a way to keep their mood up and relieve stress'. She added: 'It could also be because they have more time on their hands now.' This is true for True Fitness member Edmund Poh, who was retrenched last December. The 26-year-old now goes to the gym every day for three hours each time, up from a two-hour session twice a week when he was still working. The former bank employee said: 'Since I lost my job, I've had so much time and nothing to do. It can be boring. So I decided I might as well make use of my time.' Sales executive Nixon Yip, 28, will be joining a gym 'definitely this year' to quell his 'recession fears and keep fit'. He said: 'Exercising will help me to keep these things off my mind.' Others also say the recession has turned them into fitness freaks. Ms Wo Yu Jia, 37, said the stress of coping with the downturn made her sign up with a yoga gym last November. The 37-year-old said: 'Exercise keeps me happy. It helps me handle emotional imbalances, especially now when the bosses are screaming at us to meet targets.' Encouraged by the increased uptake in memberships, some fitness centres are looking to expand their businesses. But some members are paying the price for this popularity. Mr Brian Chew, 28, says it is now more difficult to find a spot at his favourite spin class at California Fitness. The sales engineer said: 'It is so much more crowded than it used to be. We used to be able to just walk in. Now, spots are all booked-up way in advance.'”

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