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Getting fit in the Penh

Working out at V Friend.

As the capital’s parks fill with health enthusiasts – joggers, badminton players and dancing crowds – gyms and fitness centres continue to proliferate almost as fast as Angry Bird products.

The municipality opened its second public gym at a park in Makara district earlier this month following the success of its first outdoor gym along the Riverside, while another private gym debuted on Street 29.

“Locals are starting to think about their health and need for relaxation just as much as foreigners do,” V Friend manager Davith Khuon says. The Cambodian-owned and operated venue offers a gym, massage and health centre.

Membership is equally divided between foreigners and Khmers, Davith Khuon said. “Khmers are starting to gain a better understanding about health. They know that they have to exercise to make themselves healthier and possibly live longer.”

There are other reasons Khmers are turning to gyms, he said.

“A lot of people drink, and there is also a growing number of people working and businessmen. They need a place to go where they can release toxins or work-related stress, or get rid of a bad headache [from a hangover].”

V Friend has a spa, sauna, steam room and massage services, and the prices are low enough so that middle-class Khmers can join, Khuon says.

“Normally, gyms with spas and saunas are for tourists or rich expats,” he says, adding that most are located within hotels.

“We also give massages, but no sexpats are welcome. This is a clean environment,” he added.

At the top of the gym spectrum sits the four-storey The Place on Street 51. Its assistant manager Chum Leakena says the gym industry is not a hit among locals – unless they are rich.

“There’s a different thinking between locals and expats,” she says.

“Going to the gym is popular among foreigners, but the locals do not think as much about their health and fitness. But the wealthy locals come in.”

It costs US$15 per day to attend The Place, or $150 per month.

V Friend charges far lower rates, especially for women. Men pay $3.50 a day or $35 a month, while the rate for women is $1.50 per day or $20 per month.



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