Rampant! Fitness clubs” are being eliminated due to intensifying price competition… An accident that resulted in a month-long hospital stay due to trainers’ lack of knowledge. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Rampant! Fitness clubs” are being eliminated due to intensifying price competition… An accident that resulted in a month-long hospital stay due to trainers’ lack of knowledge.

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With the health boom, fitness club facilities and personal training gyms are now seen on street corners. These days, they are not only places for exercise, but also attract customers with supplementary services such as karaoke and esthetic treatments, and price competition is intensifying. On the other hand, rising costs to maintain and manage the facilities, a shortage of trainers, and rising labor costs have led some to believe that a shakeout is underway.

It is gratifying that users have more choices with a variety of services. On the other hand, some experts have pointed out that training by imitation may lead to accidents and needs to be done properly. What is happening?

For 2,980 yen per month (excluding tax), facilities include karaoke and coin-operated laundromats, as well as self-service machines for esthetic, hair removal, nail care, and other services… (PHOTO: Kyodo News)

Price Competition Intensifies with the Emergence of “Chocozap

The fitness club industry is now talking about Chocozap as a “convenience store gym. While there have been gyms that are open 24 hours a day and offer unlimited access, ChocoZap offers facilities for as low as 2,980 yen per month (excluding tax) and includes karaoke, coin laundry, and self-service machines for esthetic, hair removal, nail care, and other services. With its ancillary services and low fees, the personal gym Lizap has opened stores nationwide.

The fitness club industry was affected by the voluntary curfew following the COVID-19 crisis, but after the COVID-19 crisis subsided, there has been a move to offer a variety of services, and competition is intensifying.

Tokyo Shoko Research, a research firm, said that fitness club bankruptcies totaled 29 in the last fiscal year, up sharply from 16 in the previous fiscal year and the most on record since statistics began. The survey covered companies falling under the government’s Japan Industrial Classification (sports facility providers) with debts of 10 million yen or more. The survey analyzed the background to the sharp increase in bankruptcies as follows.

The survey found that “the number of bankruptcies is increasing due to a variety of factors. Fitness clubs offering a variety of services, such as being near train stations, inexpensive, and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, are mushrooming, and competition is intensifying. At the same time, the industry is rapidly eliminating clubs that continue to perform poorly, due in part to increased costs and a shortage of trainers and other personnel.

Kenji Goto of Tokyo Shoko Research’s Information Division also commented on the fitness club industry, saying, “Competition for users is intensifying in terms of price and service.

He points out that the emergence of operators such as Chocozap, which offer a variety of services at low prices, has made it tougher for existing operators that have taken root in the community to manage their businesses. He said that operators are burdened with the heavy burden of maintaining equipment and investing in new stores, and that they can no longer take drastic steps without extra capacity. Mr. Goto said, “The upfront investment is heavy, and looking at financial results, some of the major operators are having a hard time increasing profits. On the other hand, he says, services are becoming more diversified, and “users have a wide range of choices.

Against the backdrop of health consciousness, the number of users of fitness clubs is increasing. According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Current Survey of Selected Service Industries, a total of 217.68 million people used fitness clubs last year, a 3.5% increase over the previous year. Overall club sales were 278.4 billion yen, up 3.8%.

High costs, labor shortages…and accidents caused by inexperienced trainers

Tsuyoshi Matsumura, Director General of the Fitness Industry Association of Japan (FIA), explains the state of the fitness club industry in Japan as follows.

The fitness club industry in Japan is in a situation where users disappeared once in Corona and have not all come back. There, costs such as utility and water bills are going up due to rising energy prices and other factors.

There are about 100 member companies of the FIA, and Matsumura said, “I’ve heard of about one bankruptcy among them,” adding that there have not been many bankruptcies among member companies.

Some fitness clubs are called integrated fitness clubs, which include gyms, studios, swimming pools, and other facilities. According to Matsumura, the usage fee at orthodox facilities is about 12,000 yen per month. Facilities with only a swimming pool, for example, increased in the ’80s and ’90s, but more and more are closing their doors due to aging facilities and other factors that make management more difficult.

The fitness club industry is diversifying these days. Matsumura says, “It is difficult to run a business as usual, but new trends are emerging, such as introducing new sources of income in addition to membership fees,” he says. New ancillary services, such as one-on-one coaching for children, which is doing well, and one-on-one coaching for adults with a trainer who charges an hourly rate, are emerging,” he said.

Mr. Matsumura also noted that “the industry is becoming more diversified, and users have more choices. On the other hand, he says, “Accidents have occurred due to a lack of consideration for safety and the step-by-step training process that is suited to the user’s goals.

Accidents and health problems have occurred in gyms and other facilities due to personal training, and the Consumer Affairs Agency is working to clarify the actual situation by, for example, considering conducting a questionnaire survey of those involved, but it appears that there are some difficulties. Takehisa Nakagawa, chairman of the Consumer Affairs Agency, said at a press conference in February, “It is very difficult to reach individual trainers with questionnaires.

We need to know what the reality of personal training services is and the extent to which personal training is linked to accidents.

Matsumura advises the general public to train with an expert until they are able to develop their own style of training. On the other hand, “Professionals must be aware of ‘safe limits’ and ‘effective limits. Many professionals are able to do this, but the number of trainers who are unable to discern these limits is increasing, and people are getting injured.

Recognition of “Safety Limits” and “Effective Limits” during Important Training

The National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan explains “Safety Limits” and “Effective Limits” on its website titled “Beware of Injury and Physical Condition Caused by ‘Personal Strength Training’! The safety limit is the limit beyond which exercise is no longer safe. The safe limit is the limit of the intensity of exercise or the amount of exercise that is dangerous to do more than this. The effective limit is the limit of exercise intensity or quantity below which no benefits can be obtained. The site also includes information received from the National Consumer Affairs Center’s “Accident Information Reception Desk from Doctors” as follows.

A consumer who was receiving strength training instruction from a personal trainer at a gym was training to raise a heavy barbell while in a forward-bending position, and suffered a lumbar fracture and other serious injuries requiring more than one month of total recovery.

The National Consumer Affairs Center’s website advises, “A personal trainer is not simply someone who guides you through one-on-one training, but someone who accompanies you by showing you options for how to exercise that are right for you, and ultimately it is important that you make your own choices about the methods that are right for you. In the end, it is up to you to choose the method that suits you best,” he advises.

Matsumura points out that “personal gyms are on the rise,” and stresses the importance of the trainers there being certified by a professional organization and receiving continuing education.

It is important for both men and women, young and old, to maintain and improve their health. Young people will want to build muscle strength, and seniors will want to maintain muscle strength to extend their healthy lifespan. It is gratifying that fitness club facilities have become more accessible and offer a variety of services that make them easier to use.

The average user tends to look at price and appearance when choosing facilities and trainers. However, it is not just a matter of easy training, and each person has their own way of doing things that suits them best. There are several related organizations in the industry, including clubs and trainers, that continue to work on safety and security. You may want to pay attention to the cooperation with such related organizations when selecting a facility and trainer.

  • Interview and text by Hideki Asai

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