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EMERGING ASIA: HEALTHY PROSPECTS Vera Kiss, analyst


F


ollowing years of solid growth, the rising incomes of Asia’s emerging middle classes have put fi tness and spa facilities in the reach of new consumer groups. But at the same time, lifestyles have become more urban and sedentary, with a more Westernised diet, contributing to a higher incidence of overweight and obesity in many markets. In some emerging markets,


overweight has been associated with material success and thus been seen as a desirable feature. Nonetheless, popular and celebrity culture also play a strong role in shaping people’s notions about what the ideal physique looks like. In India in particular, the body images propagated by the country’s highly popular movie industry, and the admiration for celebrity cricket players, have driven the acceptance of more


athletic body ideals. This partly explains the high uptake of physical exercise among affl uent, urban Indian men: 52 per cent report regular gym attendance and 54 per cent participate in physical activity. Meanwhile, golf and country club


culture has grown in both India and China, with increased uptake of golf in second-tier Indian cities and the number of golf courses in China more than tripling between 2004 and 2011, to over 600. However, fi tness and spa operators must also understand local exercise and body culture. In China, this includes the popularity of daily group exercising in public spaces, including line dancing formats that blur the boundary between socialising and exercising. Traditional forms of exercise, such as tai chi, are based on deep-rooted philosophical traditions but are open to new adaptations, as seen in the popularity


of softball tai chi (tai chi rouliqiu), which combines elements of


tennis with tai chi. Yoga is also becoming popular, with an estimated 200 studios in Shanghai, but the high cost of classes makes it a pursuit of the affl uent. Yoga has also experienced a boom in India, with many workplaces now offering classes. It seems this is being driven as much by global trends as by local tradition, with the growing variety of yoga styles on offer including those, such as Bikram, currently enjoying celebrity status in Western markets. As Asian consumers look to better manage their health, there will be opportunities for operators to mix traditional local activities with new global fi tness trends to drive participation.


In China, daily group exercise in public spaces blurs the boundary between socialising and exercising www.leisurehandbook.com LEISURE HANDBOOK 2014 125


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