Did a Shanghai Gym-goer Really Spend ¥630K on Lessons?

By Alistair Baker-Brian, March 4, 2021

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When a female Shanghai resident, surnamed Li, felt she was getting out of shape, she decided to sign up for private fitness classes in October 2019. Little did she know what further events would unfold. 

Satisfied with the classes at Physical Gym (舒适堡健身中心), Li proceeded to sign up for private fitness classes worth RMB560,000, according to Shanghai Observer. Following the regular class schedule, the private sessions would last until the year 2034.  

When it dawned on Li what she had signed up for, she quickly realized her monthly income of RMB8,000 would not be enough to finance the private classes. She applied for two separate loans worth RMB204,000 and RMB70,000, respectively. Including the interest she would pay on the loans, the total cost of her private classes over time would amount to RMB630,000. 

Things took a turn for the worse in August 2020 when Li was diagnosed with liver hemangioma, a non-cancerous benign tumor caused by clusters of blood-filled cavities. Her doctor told her not to do any rigorous exercise, including her private fitness classes. 

With this in mind, Li asked Physical Gym for a refund on the private classes for which she had already paid. The gym agreed, but only on condition that she pay a 20% get-out fee, amounting to RMB112,000. She thought this was unfair and decided to take the gym to court.

The Wenxing District People’s Court in Shanghai ruled that because of Li’s health problems, terminating the agreements she signed for the classes was fair. However, the court also ruled that Li should pay 5% of the total price of the classes as compensation to Physical Gym. 


Some key figures on the fitness industry in China (screengrab via Statista)

Health and fitness is big business in China. Estimates put the current number of gyms at around 108,000 across the Middle Kingdom, with a projected revenue for the sector of around USD6.2bn by 2024. Those aged 25 years or younger are thought to be the highest spenders.  

READ MORE: Find a Temporary Gym in China with This App

American Mike Schramm, a teacher in Shenzhen, said he usually visits the gym five times per week and pays only RMB2,680 for a two-year membership. He told That’s that he wouldn’t spend any more than RMB3,000 per year on a gym membership. And although he doesn’t take private classes, he stressed that RMB400 per hour would be his spending limit if he were ever to do so. 

The appetite for gym-going in China is likely to only get bigger in the coming years. Hopefully, the trend will result in slimmer waistlines rather than slimmer wallets. 

READ MORE: Why Waistlines are Widening in China's Biggest Cities

[Cover image via Pixabay]

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