New Zealand is tiny compared to the population powerhouses of China or India, but the Kiwi exercise culture is streets ahead of those countries in terms of female and male participation, Exercise NZ chief executive Richard Beddie says.
China and India’s exercise industry is still male dominated. Over three quarters of attendees to gyms in India and China are men, who in turn focus almost exclusively on building muscle, and the workforce is more than 80 percent male in India, compared to 45 percent in New Zealand, he says.
Beddie has recently returned from speaking to counterparts in China and in Mumbai and Delhi in India, where wrestling has been a popular sport and strong tradition among men.
“Far fewer women, on a percentage basis, are involved in the exercise industry in those countries, other than tai chi and yoga.
“Women, in India and China have, in the past, been stay-at-home mums, with inherent responsibilities, and no time to go out and exercise in structured facilities.
“Secondly there are not many gyms in India for both male and female and not many women can afford or have time for a workout.
“But in neighbourhood parks (in morning and evenings), women are among many people of all ages walking, running and strolling about, for exercise.
“New Zealand also has a more comprehensive training methodology, is more holistic in its approach and able to help more people, be they older, younger, female or male or those with health conditions.
“We have the highest percentage of our industry's exercise professionals registered (just over 70 percent), compared to under 20 percent in many countries with registration systems and as high as 50 to 60 percent in Australia and the United Kingdom. In New Zealand, exercise professionals register with the NZ Register of Exercise Professionals.
“We have some of the best training systems and personal trainers in the world. We have the best group exercise organisations. Les Mills for example has 12 national gyms and is still growing, aiming to have 75,000 members throughout New Zealand within five years.
“Its sister company, Les Mills International, focuses on fitness programmes which are used in 19,500 gyms in 100 countries.
“Where we need to work on - being more accessible to the non-exerciser and helping them getting started and stick with a new exercise programme.”