Just a couple of decades back there was a time when, even for boys, going to the gym on a regular basis was considered the hobby of good-for- nothing guys. In short, in the lower- and middle-class people in our part of the world, making an effort to stay fit was considered nothing but an unnecessary act — a total waste of money, time and energy.
The affluent elites also believed that spare time should be spent on productive hobbies like reading books or playing games like hockey, football or cricket. But with the passage of time things changed and gyms have become a part of our everyday life. In fact, it is gradually turning into a lifestyle now. The reasons people join gyms are varied. Some want to create a muscular physique, while others just want to stay fit.
Though there is still a large number of people who are not members of any gym, they are familiar with the term gym. Though gym facilities were available in five-star hotels and a couple of exclusive social clubs with restricted membership, the popularity of gyms or fitness centres is a very recent phenomenon at least in the developing countries. In fact, it all began in Karachi sometime in the late 1990s when people started getting more conscious about their health and learnt that mere walking or jogging in a park was not enough.
However, in a short span of time, the gyms started emerging in major cities of the country and Karachi witnessed a mushroom growth of gyms with uneducated trainers and obsolete facilities. The noticeable increase of such centres is of course due to the growing working middle class with high exposure and awareness to health and fitness requirements through media and social media.
As such with the growth of a newly health-conscious society, potential for a well-maintained and adequately equipped gym was felt in Pakistan, especially to cater to the needs of young executives. Resultantly, a number of national and multinational companies established gyms on a limited scale in the premises of their offices for employees. Since the facilities provided by the companies was not sufficient, the need for full-fledged gyms equipped with all the modern facilities remained. The trend of corporate gyms began in the United States in the 1980s as employers began to take on a greater responsibility for health and fitness of the employees.
The fitness facilities provided in the gyms differ to a great extent not only in size but also in the equipment like cardio machines, treadmills, elliptical, stationary bikes, stair steppers, and rowers. To fulfil the requirements of the enthusiastic members, some clubs have introduced products like heart-rate monitors, calorie expenditure display units etc to enhance client motivation.
Moreover, most importantly, motivational atmosphere or the ambience are considered very important by affluent gym rats. Gyms also have powerful music systems for they believe that the right music in gyms has powerful motivational qualities that can help people throughout their workout. This is important for gyms as it creates an appealing atmosphere the moment customers enter the premises and ensures they’re more likely to continue their daily workout.
Fitness trainers say that exercise is good for heart, bones and muscles, weight, and sleep. Staying fit can even help you live a healthier life. But you’ll get more benefits from exercise if you make it a regular habit rather than a once-in-a-while burst of heavy activity. Even small amounts can do your body some good: just 10 minutes of aerobic activity each day can lower your risk of heart disease.
With so much information available on the internet and social media, the gyms are now available in both upscale and less-privileged localities of cities with membership fee of a normal club varying from Rs500 to Rs3,000 per month and Rs5,000 to Rs60,000 a month for a lavishly designed state-of-the-art health clubs.
The target customers are the population of big cities in the age group of 18 to 50 years. While most trainers working at local gyms are self-taught, a number of foreign-qualified trainers equipped with modern techniques have also joined the local gyms. Now quite a large number of gyms have certified instructors trained to give first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), ensuring the safety of the members.
Once upon a time health clubs were considered to be reserved for only those interested in bodybuilding. The clubs were thus designed and equipped only for them. Since there was no check on such clubs in Pakistan, the bodybuilders were reportedly using steroids. Such incidents compelled the Pakistan Bodybuilding Federation (PBBF) to ask the gymnasiums to get themselves registered with it and submit an affidavit, giving assurance that bodybuilders would not use steroids.
This was necessitated, according to the PBBF, because bodybuilding makes one fit, physically as well as mentally. As such those who join this sport must try to understand the meaning of bodybuilding and what it is about. There has been an increasing trend of establishing health and fitness clubs in Pakistan during the last decade, especially in the urban areas. But then this trend is not restricted to the big cities alone and has now also spread to smaller cities and towns.
Moreover, the gym, health and fitness clubs’ industry has benefited from recent marketing campaigns aimed at fighting obesity, as well as consumer trends toward improved health.
In short, the gym has entered the mainstream and is now a cultural institution. With people in Pakistan becoming ever-increasingly health conscious, the commercial health club industry in Pakistan is emerging as a lucrative business.