Senior gyms keep the aging population fit

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A senior citizen gym is popular in Kangjian Sub-District, Xuhui.

The daily routine of 72-year-old Xia Ping, a resident of Xuhui District, does not include line dancing like most of her peers. Instead, she visits a gym a five-minute walk from where she lives.

It is common for young people to exercise in gyms. But this gym in the Kangjian subdistrict of Xuhui presents a different scene. All members here are over 55 years old. Neither white-haired nor sluggish, they are energetic and really enjoy their fitness time.

Senior-friendly gyms are springing up all over Shanghai. They are designed and geared towards the physical needs of people over 55 and were mostly built in local communities.

The indoor fitness studio, which is over 170 square meters in size, offers a bright, pleasant, homely and cozy ambience.

It was opened in June 2019 and serves around 10 residential complexes. The gym only serves elderly citizens over 55 years of age.

A monthly pass of 99 yuan ($ 15.23) allows people to try a range of machines specifically tailored to meet the fitness needs of seniors.

“For example, the treadmill has a slower start-up speed and its top speed is pretty modest,” said Yu Chenjie, an employee at Newbody Lohas, the gym operator. “It also has a much longer handle and a security lock that hooks onto the user’s body.”

“When the lock is released, the machine will stop automatically to prevent seniors from falling,” she said.

Senior gyms keep the aging population fit

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Older residents like to work out in the gym.

Senior gyms keep the aging population fit

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Xia Ping works on the treadmill in the gym.

Another rhythmic bed can prevent and improve hypoxia, heart disease and diabetes, lower the risk of a heart attack, and treat pulmonary hypertension.

An isokinetic exercise machine can prevent loss of cognitive function and lower the risk of obesity, senile dementia, and cardiovascular disease.

“I’ve used all of the equipment here and seen noticeable changes in my body and health,” said Xia, who has been going to the gym every day since September last year.

She spends an hour and a half to two hours in the gym every day.

“I had slept poorly in the past, but the rhythmic bed significantly improved the quality of my sleep,” she said. “I fall asleep quickly, even if I wake up at midnight.”

“I used to rely on acupuncture and moxibustion, a form of therapy used in traditional Chinese medicine, for lower back problems, but I haven’t had acupuncture therapy for over six months after training here,” said Xia.

She used to take pills to prevent bone loss. While doing resistance training at the gym, she surprisingly found that her bone mass increased even after she stopped taking medication.

“It’s a magical and surprising joy,” said Xia.

Many activities take place in the gym, such as a New Year’s Eve Gala where Xia acts as the host.

“I meet a lot of retired teachers here and we are good friends now,” said Xia, a former English teacher. “We encourage each other and share our training experiences. The gym gives me a strong feeling of happiness and progress. “

“I feel bored and uncomfortable if I don’t come here for a day and I’ve introduced a lot of friends here,” she added. “It’s a good platform and gateway.”

The gym welcomes around 150 seniors every day. The oldest is 94 years old. Members between the ages of 65 and 75 make up 45 percent of the practice community.

At the end of July, Kangjian Subdistrict had 27,030 residents over the age of 60, with 34.54 percent of permanent residents registered in Shanghai.

Of these, 5,271 were over 80 years old and 13 were centenarians.

Senior gyms keep the aging population fit

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Mi Minhua works out in the gym.

“Some of these devices also help prevent cognitive impairment and improve coordination in the elderly,” said gym operator Yu, “such as a machine that simulates jumping rope.

“All gym users will be tested when they visit. Their digital health record is on file,” she said. “Suggestions for different exercises are given based on your state of health.”

Retired Mi Minhua is a frequent visitor. She has been visiting the gym five to six times a week since it opened.

She runs on the treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes each time, and also does some exercises to strengthen her back and prevent shoulder pain.

“I used to run on the treadmill at home, but my neighbors complained that it was too noisy,” says Mi. “I have cervical problems and shoulder pain, and physical therapy is expensive.”

“My symptoms are significantly reduced by exercising here and it saves money as an annual pass only costs 1,088 yuan,” said Mi.

“The gym is very popular now, and some seniors who even live in the Minhang District come here,” she said proudly. “I’ve made a lot of friends here.”

Officially known as the Elderly Sports and Health Home, this type of gym is a multi-function, community-based fitness center, according to the Shanghai Administration of Sports.

Senior gyms keep the aging population fit

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Seniors like to work out in the gym.

It provides one-stop seniors sports and health services such as health testing, science exercise guidance, athletic interventions for chronic diseases, and sports rehabilitation training for seniors by leveraging resources from sports, elderly care, and public health services.

According to the city map, at least 70 such fitness studios are planned in Shanghai by 2023.

They will improve community-based sports, fitness and senior care services, the administration said.

Nanjing Road E. Elderly Gym in central Huangpu District has 54 members.

Around 100 square meters are filled with various fitness equipment.

Ling Meijun, 66, remains in good shape.

She does her morning exercises almost every day. But she did them outdoors.

“It’s hot in summer and cold in winter,” said Ling. “The indoor climate is a pleasure.”

Before doing her exercises, Ling has her blood pressure and heart rate measured.

“It helps me train more scientifically,” she added.

Aunt Ji, a former doctor, is warm-hearted.

She always recommends seniors exercises that suit them.

The fitness studio is located next to a day care center and a cafeteria for senior citizens, creating a practical “15-minute community life circle”.

“It’s not just a sports training room, it’s also a social platform, especially for seniors living alone,” Ji said.