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February
LCSD fitness rooms gaining popularity
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It's time to keep fit after all those Lunar New Year delicacies.

More and more people have been using the fitness rooms of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department since pre-use instruction was streamlined in May last year.

Attendance in the seven months since May registered increases of 12% to 35% when compared with corresponding months in 2005. Attendance in January, 2007, stood at 134,000, about 46% above that for the same month in 2006.

In May, 2006, the department, following a comprehensive review of the process by which the public could qualify and register as users of the fitness rooms, introduced a three-hour briefing session to replace the induction course and Fitness Gold Card test that had been held since 1994.

Ms Leung, a working mother, is among those who have benefited from the streamlined qualifying procedures.

"I had been interested in using the fitness equipment for a long time. I could not afford to spend 12 hours over several weeks attending the previous Fitness Gold Card qualifying course but I had no problem fitting the three-hour briefing session into my busy schedule," she said at the fitness room at Ho Man Tin Sports Centre, which she visits every fortnight.

The three-hour "Briefing on Proper Ways to Use Fitness Equipment" was developed with the support of the Physical Fitness Association of Hong Kong, China (PFAHK).

The briefing, which is free-of-charge, consists of a lecture, demonstrations, a practical session and an assessment test.

The lecture explains basic concepts of sports and physical fitness, and the most effective way of exercising.

The demonstrations cover aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, stretching and dumb-bell muscle training. After some hands-on practice, participants will do a multiple choice test at the end of the briefing. Those who pass will be eligible to register as users of department fitness rooms.

Ms Leung gave other reasons for going to a department fitness room instead of a private gym, "Since I come here only twice a month, I find paying $17 per visit is more economical than paying a sizeable annual membership fee to a private gym.

"And it's really convenient for me to leave my children to play in the children's playroom in the same sports centre while I work out, usually for 45 minutes at one go."

Mr Wong, a health-conscious technician working in Ho Man Tin, is an entirely different type of user. He visits the department fitness room in the district four days a week and exercises for as long as 90 minutes each time.

Mr Wong obtained his Fitness Gold Card from the department three years ago, when he already had seven year's experience with fitness room equipment elsewhere.

"Working out has become a habit. I just feel something is missing whenever I am unable to do it," he said, but added that he had not given up any sports in order to pump iron, "On the contrary, exercising in the fitness room improves my strength and endurance and allows me to enjoy other sports more."

Being a frequent user, Mr Leung prefers to pay $180 for a month ticket which entitles him to unlimited use of designated fitness rooms within a month.

The department runs 65 fitness rooms throughout Hong Kong. They are provided with exercise bikes, treadmills, steppers, rowing machines and various types of weight training equipment.

Irrespective of how much experience a user has with these equipment, the importance of safety cannot be over-emphasised, according to course demonstrator Cora Ng.

Ms Ng, who joined the PFAHK in 1989 and has 16 years of experience in teaching people how to use fitness equipment, said it was very important to warm up adequately and proceed gradually.

"One has to be patient. Fitness does not just mean strong muscles. Flexibility of joints and efficient respiratory functions are just as important."

For this reason, at the briefing session she always advises against concentrating on one exercise alone, such as lifting dumb-bells incessantly in order to train one group of muscles.

The free briefings are open to people aged 15 and above. Enrolment can be done at the department's District Leisure Services Offices or any recreation and sports venues with Leisure Link Services. Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Since the briefing was introduced last May, 609 sessions have been conducted, enabling some 9,000 people to become users of the department's fitness rooms. Many briefings were held after office hours to cater for the working population.

Ends/Tuesday, February 20, 2007
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