Fitness groups engineer exercise attitude adjustment in Taiwan

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Members of a fitness club exercise at a facility in Taipei City. (Photo courtesy Taiwan Today/ Huang Chung-hsin)

Members of a fitness club exercise at a facility in Taipei City. (Photo courtesy Taiwan Today/ Huang Chung-hsin)

TAIPEI (Taiwan Today) - A campaign is underway in Taiwan to provide widespread access to affordable fitness facilities and bolster public interest in sport.

In recent decades, the Sports Administration under the Ministry of Education has worked with local governments around Taiwan on the development of modern, well-equipped community gymnasiums. Since 2003, a large-scale multidisciplinary sports center has been built in each of Taipei City’s 12 districts.

The quality of these facilities was a major factor in Taipei’s shortlisting for the 2018 World Capital of Sport by Brussels-based European Capitals and Cities of Sport Federation. Inspired by this achievement, other municipalities have followed suit, with 24 civic sports centers either constructed or in various stages of completion nationwide.

Private investment is also pouring into Taiwan’s fitness industry. Figures from the Fiscal Information Agency under the Ministry of Finance reveal that the number of nongovernment-owned gyms rose to 369 in 2017 from 149 in 2013, while sector revenues increased by about 160 percent to NT$7.87 billion (US$255.5 million) over the same period.

Trainers are needed for the many newly built public and private sector gyms. Amid rising demand for qualified staff, more than 5,000 people completed basic instructor certification last year offered by Taipei-based Health and Exercise Association. Established in 2002, HEA is Taiwan’s largest training organization for fitness professionals.

HEA Vice President Scott Liu said Taiwan has witnessed a major shift in attitudes toward fitness over the past decade. “Young adults today are increasingly focused on maintaining a healthy weight.

“Taiwan is also an aging society, and more and more people recognize that physical activity is essential for a good quality of life in retirement.”

In addition to shifting societal trends toward exercise, annual SA surveys of physical activity show the proportion of people over the age of 13 performing 30 minutes or more of exercise at least three times per week reached a record 33.5 percent in 2018, up from 15.5 percent when the study was first conducted in 2005.

HEA, together with other exercise and fitness groups, is also involved in a variety of local government-sponsored outreach programs. A prime example is Exercise for Health in New Taipei City. Launched in 2016, the project assigns instructors to community centers in each of the metropolis’s 29 districts. The goal is to provide services for seniors, residents with reduced mobility and those who live some distance from the new civic sports complexes.

As part of the program, the local government signed a two-year cooperation agreement with Exercise is Medicine, an initiative launched by the American Medical Association and the American College of Sports Medicine in 2007 to integrate physical activity into medical treatment plans. Under the pact, 385 health care and sports professionals in New Taipei will receive EIM training on delivering exercise classes for the elderly and physically inactive.