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Is China ready for 24-hour gyms? This company thinks so

Melissa Goh; Special to CNBC
China 'ripe for expansion:' Anytime Fitness

Fitness franchise Anytime Fitness aims to open up to 500 gyms in China in the coming years, betting that growing incomes in the world's second-largest economy will foster a fitness craze.

The U.S.-based franchise currently boasts of over 3,500 gyms serving 3 million members globally, and plans to operate 300 to 500 gyms in China by 2020. The company reported $1.25 billion in total revenues last year.

Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the gym franchise joins a clutch of gyms and fitness centres in China's burgeoning fitness industry which grew 11.8 percent annually between 2011 to 2016.

Rising disposable incomes and health-consciousness among the young population are driving growth in China's fitness industry, experts said. A report by ACMR-IBISWorld in 2016 anticipated that in the five years through 2021, industry revenue will increase 7.8 percent annually to total $8.47 billion.

In Shanghai for the launch, Dave Mortensen, president and co-founder of Anytime Fitness told CNBC's Squawk Box, "Out of the markets that I've been in - and I've been in over 30 countries - China is just right for expansion."

The China market is largely untapped, with a gym membership penetration rate of just 0.4 per cent out of its near 1.4 billion population, according to an IHRSA Asia-Pacific Health Club Report published this year.

Anytime Fitness is currently open in all 50 states in the U.S. and has outlets across Europe and Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

"We are an international brand and we partner with local experts," said Mortensen, which cited local partnerships as key to success in navigating local business environments beyond the U.S. The brand is partnering franchisee Maurice Levine for its China expansion.

"We're in the business of building communities and helping people achieve their goals, something that transcends across borders," Mortensen said. "We are confident our business model paired with the China capacity, will prosper thousands of gyms."