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Japan's Aeon goes gray with gyms for seniors

Fitness centers will focus on socializing over exercise

Much of the space at Aeon's gyms will be devoted to a lounge and stretching machines.

TOKYO -- Retail group Aeon will launch fitness centers for the elderly, entering a growing business segment in fast-aging Japan.

The 3Fit gyms will emphasize socializing by members over rigorous exercise. Standard locations will have 250-350 sq. meters of space -- slightly bigger than a convenience store -- half of which will be dedicated to a lounge with a TV, vending machines and magazines. Members can drop by anytime, as no indoor footwear will be required.

Stretching machines will compose about 40% of the equipment, and the fitness centers will have a limited number of weight-training machines.

Membership cards will double as an activity tracker from health care equipment maker Tanita. The device serves as an odometer and calorie tracker, and information such as blood pressure and body fat measured at the gym will be logged automatically into Tanita's health management system.

A test location debuted last month in the Chiba Prefecture city of Kashiwa on the second floor above a discount-goods store. Aeon seeks to open 10 sites a year, mostly in Tokyo suburbs for now. Some locations will be inside the group's supermarkets. To lure the elderly to the company's shopping malls, Aeon has been designing stores with a focus on health and fitness. Gym operators increasingly offer programs for seniors, who tend to be more loyal members than younger generations.


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