Taiwan is an East Asian island country of about 23 million people, located north of the Philippines and off the southeastern coast of China. With approximately 73% of the population between the ages of 15 and 64, it’s no wonder that exercise and good health are of great interest to many Taiwan residents.
Although the nation’s gender split is just about fifty-fifty, most gyms have more female members, according to Annie Cheng of Taipei, senior manager of sports marketing for Nike. Some women-only clubs, including Pure Yoga and True Dance, are very popular.
Yoga is a favorite at all clubs, especially with women. As Cheng states, “Yoga is seen as a fashion activity and lifestyle.” Han-Yao Kao, a personal trainer in Taipei, concurs and adds, “Yoga is still a favorite for women because, compared with strength or durability training, it’s more acceptable for them. Women love to work out in classes such as martial arts, to burn calories, but when it comes to weight training, they just disappear. I have asked a number of women about this and got the answer that they don’t want to gain muscle [size]. They like to stay slim by dieting.”
Besides yoga, other popular group exercise formats include ballroom, Zumba® and music-video dancing; indoor cycling; and the “World of Les Mills,” as Kao puts it! Popular personal training formats include one-on-one boxing (kickboxing and Thai boxing) and TRX® Suspension Training® . Because of the cost and the need for experienced trainers, equipment-based exercise is not especially widespread in Taiwan. Treadmills are quite ubiquitous, reports Cheng, but only a few personal trainers have access to stability balls, medicine balls or the BOSU® Balance Trainer. Kao observes that it’s rare to see equipment used in group classes other than step or BodyPump® .
One thing that makes Taiwan unique is how sophisticated gym members are. “Many overseas guest instructors love to teach in Taipei,” Cheng says, “as the members appreciate and respond with love to their classes. People love to approach new programs, especially if they are full of challenges.” Kao mentions those who get up early for a variety of movement activities: “Around 5:30 in the morning, early birds will do tai chi, kung fu or some easy dancing in the open areas of our parks.”
What factors compel the Taiwanese people to exercise? Kao believes they are motivated “first [by] weight loss, then looks, then health, then stress release, then injury rehabilitation, with social reasons coming in last.” Cheng’s take on it is slightly different: “At the very beginning, health and weight loss are primary motivators, but after people are members for a while, social networking becomes a key driver; plus, they want to improve performance and set goals for themselves. Many senior members even become part-time instructors.”
Both Cheng and Kao are enthusiastic about exercise and their country. “Fitness has definitely become an important part of social life,” emphasizes Cheng. Kao adds, “It is good enough if you know exercise is good for you and you do it, no matter what!”