Zhejiang Shapes up with a Smarter Way to Exercise

Queues for the equipment, locker-room overcrowding and expensive membership subscriptions are all-too-common headaches for users of gyms in big cities. Exercise enthusiasts in certain parts of Zhejiang, however, are free of such inconveniences thanks to the province’s pioneering technological approach to mass fitness.

The Tianxing community in Jiaxing is at the vanguard of Zhejiang’s exercise innovation. All of the neighborhood’s 30 sports fields and fitness centers use a smart online system that allows members to see exactly how many people are using each facility, thereby helping them plan their workouts more wisely.

Users can also communicate with each other through various groups on the platform, select different classes to join, sign up for competitions or find opponents for solo sports. The system even collates people’s total exercise time and ranks it against other users.

Facial-recognition technology speeds up the entry process to venues, while devices automatically check body temperature as part of COVID-19 prevention measures.

Data generated by the smart system-pinpointing the most popular activities, for example-means the gyms can better cater to their members’ needs, ultimately resulting in more efficient management of the facilities.

Since launching in May 2020, the system now has 4,570 users-about a quarter of Tianxing community’s residents.

“Each day we only charge each user 3 yuan ($0.46). The monthly membership card is 60 yuan, which works out at 2 yuan a day. The annual membership card is only 365 yuan, which means only 1 yuan each time,” said Shen Kai, who is in charge of Tianxing’s gyms.

“Entry to the gyms is free for under-18s and over-60s. And we have free instructors that can guide people to keep fit in a more scientific way and avoid injuries. Each gym costs about 1 million yuan for the equipment and decoration. The investment all comes from the government.”

Jiaxing’s Tanghui community has embraced a similar model. The community has 91 sports fields and venues, with 85 sports groups and 65 fitness instructors attracting nearly 6,000 people to its smart system.

“Often the focus is on professional sports, but for us, the fitness of everyday people is equally important. We are witnessing a huge surge in demand for sports and fitness,” said Wang Lei, the director of Jiaxing Sports Bureau.

“People need to exercise, so they should know how to do it scientifically. We also might want to play sports with friends, sometimes be competitive and test ourselves against each other. To meet all these demands, what we have now is far from enough.

“We first need to provide people with enough sports fields, scientific guidance, and platforms to communicate through sports.”

Larger sports centers in Zhejiang are also enjoying the benefits of the smart system. Huanglong Sports Center in Hangzhou, for example, is able to provide data to managers and visitors, such as the age and gender ratios of all registered members.

The center will be used to host soccer, gymnastics and water polo at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, and boasts two stadiums and six gymnasiums.

Huanglong’s Baoyugang Natatorium has installed an online reservation system, allowing swimmers to see how many people are using the pool in real-time.

“We need to keep improving the quality of our service and further facilitate the smooth operation of our smart system and lower the cost. Meanwhile, we aim to host more high-level domestic and international sports events,” said Shen Bin, the director of Huanglong Sports Center.

“We hope to become a shining example of sports center operation in Zhejiang, and even throughout China.”