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As Waistlines Grow, So Does Vietnam’s Fitness Industry

Combined with the country’s newfound middle-income status and robust economic growth, the prevalence of obesity is bringing about new business opportunities in Vietnam.

With the influx of western fast food chains and a decline in physical activity, demand for fitness center memberships continues to grow despite ever-increasing prices, reports Nikkei Asian Review.

These memberships, which include access to dance and yoga lessons and, in some cases, personal training (PT) sessions, have ballooned in major cities like Hanoi, Da Nang and Saigon. Today, the cost of a PT session in Vietnam is on par with the same service in Japan, priced at approximately VND500,000 (US$22) per hour, according to the news outlet.

“It's expensive, but I'll do my best to lose weight, because I've gained some recently,” 25-year-old Pham Thi Hoan Linh, a member of a gym run by the California Management Group (CMG) in Hanoi, told Nikkei.

Linh is not alone in this. According to the news source, World Health Organization statistics say obesity among Vietnamese men has more than tripled in the past decade, while obesity rates among Vietnamese women have jumped a staggering 80% in that same time frame.

While Vietnam still has the lowest rates of obesity in Southeast Asia, this sharp uptick over the past few years has caused concern among public health officials. Particularly among younger generations, the lack of physical activity has led to a spike in obesity rates for urban children. Rates have climbed as high as 40% in major cities, Nikkei writes, citing a survey by the country’s National Institute of Nutrition.

As a result, fitness and health-oriented businesses are racing to expand in Vietnam, and there is high demand for such services. According to Nikkei, CMG alone plans to increase the number of gyms in its network to 100 by 2020. Meanwhile, Elite Fitness, one of CMG’s major rivals, has set up a fitness program that includes meal planning priced at US$350 a month.

Smaller gyms are also gearing up for the competition. Saigon-based 8020Fit, which has been in operation since 2015, offers six-week programs for US$444 to US$890. In addition to PT, these programs include personalized nutrition advice and tailored meal deliveries six times a week. 8020Fit’s customer base has reportedly doubled from last year to 600 members.

As Vietnam continues to grow economically, the future of its health and fitness industries certainly shows promise, however it remains to be seen whether flashy gyms and high-end nutrition programs will combat the country’s growing rates of obesity.

[Photo via Dan Ong]

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