Fat camp shows China battling the bulge

Fri Aug 26, 2011 12:11pm EDT
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By Sui-Lee Wee and Sabrina Mao

BEIJING (Reuters) - On the grounds of the Bodyworks weight loss campus in Beijing, 30 tubby men and women sweat profusely, gasping for air as they pound the treadmills in an exercise room.

They represent a shocking new statistic in the world's most populous country. According to some estimates, a third of China's population -- some 429 million -- are overweight or obese, prime candidates for heart disease and diabetes.

It is growing fatter faster than any developing nation except Mexico, with grave implications for the work force and economic growth in the world's second biggest economy.

At the Bodyworks campus, they range in age from 7 to 55 and come from across China. Each pays 30,000 yuan ($4,696) for the six-week program.

For that, they get balanced meals and exercise for six hours each day. The regimen includes weight training, running, yoga and football.

"For the first two to three weeks, it was especially hard. I cried on the phone to my parents and told my father, 'I can't make it,'" said Zhang Fang, a 28-year-old employee with China Unicom from northern Shanxi province.

"My mother said: 'If you don't continue, you're finished. You need your health.'"

When Zhang joined the camp, she weighed 150 kg (300 pounds), had high blood pressure and had trouble breathing when she walked. She's lost 50 kg in one year.   Continued...

<p>A man lifts weight as part of his training during a six-week programme in an exercise room at the Bodyworks weight loss campus in Beijing August 26, 2011. REUTERS/Soo Hoo Zheyang</p>