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BEIJING－Yu Jing, 35, an office worker in Beijing, takes an expensive approach to fitness.
She gave up a 1,000-square-meter gym with an annual fee of 2,000 yuan ($291). Instead, she paid 9,000 yuan for 36 one-hour courses in a fitness studio located in a three-bedroom apartment.
"It is not a bargain, but I think the exercise will be more effective under the guidance of a private coach," she said.
The Aosheng Fitness Training Base, with an area of only 150 square meters, opened in March and has about 60 members, according to Jin Long, a 27-year-old retired wrestler and founder of the studio. It has seven coaches, all retired wrestlers from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
The studio is already profitable, said Jin, who is hunting for an apartment for a second studio. He came to Beijing five years ago and worked as a fitness coach.
"The traditional fitness clubs concentrate more on sales and focus less on customers" experiences and services," Jin said. "Our studio focuses on customers and bodybuilding results, which is the future direction of the industry."
With the middle class on the rise, small but more expensive studios like Jin"s are sprouting across China.
When Tang Lin, founder of i Fitness Space, set up his first fitness studio in Beijing five years ago, there were roughly 20 such studios in Beijing. Now there are more than 1,500 such studios in the city listed on dianping.com, a city guide.
"Chinese people are not only putting more attention on health but also are more willing to pay for a better experience," said Tang. Those born in the 1970s and "80s are the majority of his clients, he said.
Chinese people will spend about 1 trillion yuan on sports consumption this year, said Ouyang Li, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission.
The training of coaches also is becoming more lucrative.
The number of trainees at Saipu Fitness Institute, a major training organization, is expected to reach 40,000 this year, according to Zhao Siyu, assistant president of Saipu Investment Co.
Saipu registered 259 million yuan in sales revenue in the first half of this year, up 78 percent year-on-year, and its net profits increased by 81 percent to 72.38 million yuan during the same period, according to its semiannual report.