Specialised kids’ fitness training centres are set to be in high demand in Chinese cities following the raft of new education policies that were introduced from 2020 onwards.
The kids’ fitness industry started in 2017 but only gained momentum recently. A 50% year-on-year increase was noticed by one owner of a kids’ fitness centre in Hohhot in Inner Mongolia during the most recent winter vacation and he also noticed several new centres popping up in the neighbouring area in the span of two weeks. The kids’ fitness training market in China is expected to exceed 130 billion RMB (18.7 billion USD) in 2023, according to Duojing Educational Research Institute.
Fitness training for young people has become a top government priority in recent years due to concerns about the “feminisation” of boys in China, which many blame on the importing of Korean pop culture, called the “Korean Wave”.
In 2020, China’s Ministry of Education issued a notice calling for the “prevention of the feminisation of male youth”, largely through the strengthening of physical education provision in schools. Whilst the move initially stirred some controversy, it was later explained by the government that “masculinity” was not about gender stereotyping, claiming that the term encapsulates a range of admirable qualities all youth should strive for.
During the pandemic the concept of kids’ fitness took root in the minds of parents, many of whom witnessed the detrimental impact of at-home schooling on the mental health of their children. As of 2021 private tutoring companies, a dominant feature of education in urban China, were also banned to curb the excessive pressure the industry placed on parents and children. Fitness classes are the perfect option for middle class parents with cash to spare, helping to assuage health concerns at the same time as filling the gap left by the shutting of tutoring businesses.
Practitioners within this burgeoning field are now striving for standardisation so that kids’ fitness training can earn greater recognition and trust among parents across the country. Looking to the future, the head of a kids fitness centre in Inner Mongolia said “We will create exclusive profiles for each child, regularly monitor the child’s fitness, and share data on the effectiveness of the program so that the child’s progress can be seen at a glance.”