• Kyodo

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The fast-growing fitness chain Rizap has teamed up with local governments to launch a program targeting elderly residents as part of efforts to curb the graying nation’s ballooning medical expenses.

Rizap Group Inc. provides municipalities with health management programs incorporating exercise and dietary regimes with the aim of helping elderly residents stay in shape to reduce the need for nursing care, company officials said.

Japan faces the daunting task of reining in runaway medical expenditures, estimated to hit around ¥50 trillion in 2020.

The Rizap effort aims to help elderly citizens avoid lifestyle-related diseases in order to preserve their health.

The program, based on the chain’s database of around 90,000 customers accumulated over the past five years, has proved successful in assisting elderly people in losing weight and raising muscle mass, the firm said.

According to the Makinohara Municipal Government in Shizuoka Prefecture, of 27 senior citizens who applied for the Rizap program — offered through the city office between February and June — 23 lost an average of 2.4 kg without a drop in muscle mass, after undertaking a 90-minute exercise program once a week for three months.

The participants’ average age was 68.1.

Those who take part in the program receive carbohydrate-controlled diet recommendations from Rizap via email and trainers instruct public health nurses on how to motivate residents.

Rizap is set to launch similar programs in Nara Prefecture’s Gojo and the village of Kawakami in Nagano Prefecture.

“We are hoping to contribute to reinvigorating local communities by energizing elderly residents,” Rizap President Takeshi Seto said.

Referring to the chain’s regular fees, which some critics say are too expensive, the president said, “We intend to set prices that are easily accepted by municipal offices.”

The chain’s two-month “shape-up” program, involving 50-minute sessions twice a week, costs about ¥300,000.

Rizap has grown rapidly since its founding in 2010, with TV commercials touting dramatic before and after images of customers’ bodies.

It now boasts over 100 fitness centers throughout Japan and four gyms abroad, including in Shanghai and Singapore. The chain has become known for its personal trainers motivating customers to lose weight through the rigorous monitoring of their diets.

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