Japan: Seniors flock to gyms as govt seeks to curb medical costs

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) – Fitness club Tipness in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo, was crowded with seniors one afternoon this month.

“[Coming here] helps to prevent my chronic ailments from getting worse. It’s also fun to chat with other members,” a 76-year-old said.

A company executive 59, said he came here on his days off, “I want to keep working energetically even when I get old,” he said.

Tipness Ltd, which operates 55 gyms in the Kanto and Kansai regions, said 29 per cent of its members as of the end of August are aged 60 or older, up seven percentage points from five years ago.

The company is trying to boost membership by offering programmes for seniors that put less strain on the body.

According to a ‘Market Intelligence and Forecast’ survey conducted by the Mitsubishi Research Institute Inc in June, 15 per cent of people in their 60s use sports facilities such as fitness clubs.

Among 70-year-olds, the figure is 18 per cent, and 17 per cent for those in their 80s.

The results also showed that the percentage of seniors using gyms was higher than other age groups.

The Fitness Industry Association of Japan has said the promotion of elderly health is one of its missions, and it has put importance on launching programmes tailored for them.

An increase in the number of seniors visiting gyms is also expected to boost the number of daytime users.

In April, a study group of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers on social security reform proposed income tax deductions on fees for health promotion facilities, such as fitness clubs, in an effort to encourage senior citizens to go to gyms.

An elderly man works out at Tipness in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo. The gym is crowded with seniors during the daytime on weekdays. PHOTO: ANN