Your guide to Shanghai fitness for expats.
With a wide variety of fitness centers, team sports, and outdoor activities available in Shanghai there is no excuse for Shanghai expats to not stay in shape.
Some sports, such as squash, ice hockey, cricket and rugby might be harder to find in Shanghai, but they are available. You might want, however, to try some new physical activity, like various kinds of Chinese martial arts or boxing.
Joining one of the many Shanghai expat sports clubs is not only a great way to stay in shape, but also a good way to meet new friends. There are a wide variety of clubs to choose from, including hiking, cycling and team sports.
There are also more and more clubs and organizations providing physical fitness training, sports activities and summer camps for expat children in Shanghai.
We have a list of Shanghai fitness centers and sports clubs for expats and children at the end of this article.
Probably the easiest way to stay in shape in Shanghai is to buy a
membership at one of Shanghai's many fitness centers. These can range
from small not-so-clean local neighborhood establishments, all the way
up to very expensive, international top of the line clubs.
Some of the more popular chain fitness centers with branches in many districts around Shanghai include:
These target the middle class Shanghai locals, so are relatively clean and have a wide variety of weight lifting equipment and other activities such as spinning and yoga. You can also hire their personal trainers to help develop a work-out program that suits you.
Some gyms have full size swimming pools, whereas some other chains have mini swimming pools. It is often hard to swim laps at Shanghai swimming pools, however, as many locals enjoy relaxing in the pools more than actually swimming.
Unfortunately, most local Shanghai fitness centers don't have English language websites. As many of them have Shanghai expat members, however, they will have one or two people on staff who can speak enough English to give you a tour and sell you a membership.
A one-year membership at one of the local Shanghai fitness centers ranges between RMB 2,000-5,000, depending on how recently it opened and its equipment and facilities. A membership card that allows you to go to more than one of their branches will cost more than a single branch membership.
You need to be patient and use bargaining skills to get a good deal at many local Shanghai fitness centers. Sales staff, whose income often depends on commissions, are well known for their aggressive bargaining tactics. So be sure to carefully read the details of the membership contract before signing.
In 2015, after much bargaining, I was offered a 1-year membership at both MOB and KingThai (previously Kingsport) fitness gyms in Jingan district for RMB 2,500.
In the summer of 2016 Will's gym on WangHang Du lu in Jing'an was offering a one year membership for RMB 4,288 and a 2 year membership for RMB 5,888. For membership cards that can be used at all their centres around Shanghai they were charging 5,888 for one year and 7,288 for two years. These prices were before bargaining.
Will's fitness has the largest number of locations around Shanghai including in some very exclusive buildings such as the Jinmao and IFC.
Physical Fitness, a Hong Kong invested chain, has recently opened up some new gyms including one in Jing'an Yueda 889 Plaza in August 2016. After bargaining they offered RMB 2,600 for a one year membership and 3,700 for 28 months which could be used at all their gyms in Shanghai.
Tera Wellness opened a very large new A+ center in Jing'an, near Carrefour, in September 2016. At the time they offered a 'free' extra year when purchasing a 1-year membership for RMB 9,688.
The easiest way to bargain a better deal is to sign up for multi-year memberships which come with large discounts. This, however, can be risky. There have been a few Shanghai fitness centers that have gone bankrupt over the years, with patrons not being able to get refunds.
Sometimes you can get good deals by purchasing a second-hand fitness center membership card online at Taobao. Often these cards can not be transferred a second time, however. The transfer process can also be tedious and there is always some risk until you understand all the terms and the transfer has been completed.
Some Shanghai fitness centers sell monthly passes ranging from RMB 400-800, which is only economical if you are away from Shanghai for long periods of time during the year.
Several high-end Shanghai fitness centers, such as Kerry Sports at the Kerry Centre in Pudong (1388 Huamu Lu) are quite popular with expats. These will charge RMB 7,000-15,000 for a one-year membership and offer much less crowded, cleaner environments with higher quality service and better equipment.
The top of the line Shanghai Racquet Club in Minhang District, which has almost any activity you can imagine will cost about RMB 60,000 for a one-year membership.
Several Shanghai boutique fitness gyms opened by expats offer both private and group fitness classes without the need to buy memberships. These include Olive Branch, Feel Good Fitness, Prime Fitness, Pro Series@ the clinic, and Spinback Fitness.
Most provide private and group High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and circuit training; making use of various equipment including resistance bands, kettle bells and medicine balls.
These fitness centers, along with the Crossfit clubs listed below, offer evening, weekend or daytime group fitness classes delivered by expat personal trainers for RMB 100-200/session.
Mini flexible gyms are becoming more common in Shanghai. Many of these, such as some run by Super Monkey, are staff-less which means no pushy sales staff.
Some are very small and have little more than a few running machines and weights. Mobile apps and QR Codes are used to pay for work-out time and group classes. You don't need to buy long-term memberships for such gyms.
Often these gyms are open 24-hours so you can work out any time of the day and night.
With the Winter Olympics coming up in Beijing in 2022 the government as well as private business is promoting winter sports across the country.
Shanghai already has 15 ice rinks and intends to increase the number of indoor ice and snow sport's facilities to fifty by 2025. Included in this will be the world’s largest indoor ski resort, Wintastar Shanghai to open in Pudong District by 2022.
You can find a list of several indoor ice rinks for hockey and figure skating in Shanghai below.
Yoga and Pilates are also popular Shanghai fitness activities for expats. You can find many such clubs in our Yoga article.