In today’s society, young busy professionals often can’t find the time to exercise and be healthy. Beijing especially feels very fast paced with so many things to do.  However I’m always impressed by the old people who are dancing or doing tai chi in parks and public squares.

So the problem is that the young generation of Chinese either don’t care about exercising and keeping fit and healthy, or they don’t know how.  For many Chinese, gyms are new and unchartered territory, so there is a need to educate people on the proper use of gym equipment and fitness regimes. So a new start-up called Wokaishi, currently in closed beta, is aiming to make fitness available to everyone, anywhere and anytime.  The goal is to teach people how to take care of their bodies until they are comfortable enough to go to a gym or a professional health practitioner to gain maximum benefits.  Even the cute panda logo was intentionally used to relate to a normal Chinese person, rather than use a muscular man that might otherwise scare people away.

The team is founded by Josh Du and Anna Tsui. Neither have a professional fitness background but both are passionate about helping China get fit healthy. The pair met when Anna, an American Chinese, first moved to China and found Josh on TheBeijinger.com, a genuine nice guy who wanted to help people moving to China for the first time. Chatting over dim sum, the two had an idea about building a web and mobile product that would give people useful and practical information to work out and be healthy.  They reasoned that China is developing and becoming wealthier, so people will spend more time and money on prioritizing their health. After scanning the market they found existing sites were cluttered with advertising banners or were more focused on helping gym instructors to get a job. Nothing really targeted real people just wanting to exercise.

Josh and Anna on the right with the Wokaishi team

So Wokaishi, meaning ‘I Start’, set out to become the go-to source of information about health and fitness in China. The site is filled with hundreds of workout videos and health related articles, that are aimed to give people a simple but easy to follow ‘how to’ guide, for example how to use gym equipment or do yoga.  Exercises are not limited only to the gym. The site also provides simple but effective exercise techniques you can use when sitting at your office desk. To be practical, you can take your iPad to the gym or park and follow along.

Another main component is the social network function of connecting users to professional instructors who can improve their techniques and give them discipline. Users can also connect with other people via a Weibo style messaging system to organize events like running or rock climbing.   By initially selecting some preferences, Wokaishi will also give you recommendations about what to do and what to eat. They also plan to accredit gyms and instructors based on their certification.  Although not yet solidified, Wokaishi has ideas to monetize through advertising health and fitness brands and products as well as organizing events.

The site is planning to officially launch in two weeks but already they have begun marketing efforts and building a fitness community. Recently they organized a night running event from Jianguomen down to Tiananmen West, where around thirty people turned up, after only three days of Weibo marketing.

I’m happy to see Wokaishi kaishi (start) because I met them back in April during iWeekend. They committed to their idea and are now putting it into action.