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Asia Minute: For Health Reasons, Seoul Gyms Told to Slow the Musical Pace

These treadmills, like other equipment at Downsize Fitness, are designed for larger people.
Lauren Silverman For NPR
Lauren Silverman for NPR

Restrictions have been increased in South Korea’s capital and surrounding areas, as the country deals with another wave of the coronavirus. Bars and clubs are closed, and private gatherings at night are now limited to two people.

Another measure that’s getting a lot of attention includes some new rules at the gym. Anyone spending time at a gym in Seoul over the next couple of weeks is being asked to slow down a bit.

That means a maximum speed of 6 kilometers an hour on the treadmill, or a little less than 4 miles an hour.

Another rule requires gyms to slow the pace of their music to nothing faster than 120 beats a minute during group exercises.

The idea behind both is to reduce heavy breathing and to prevent patrons from, as the BBC puts it, “splashing sweat on each other.”

The Korea Herald quotes one frustrated gym goer as saying, “They require us to wear face masks while working out, check temperature before entry…and now they want us to stop running and listen to ballads?”

While the new wave of viral spread is deadly serious in South Korea, opposition lawmakers are among those ridiculing the shift in rules for gyms.

Reuters says one asked reporters, “Who on earth checks the beats per minute of the songs when you work out?”

BBC’s music reporter points out that eight of the top 10 singles currently on South Korea’s pop chart are fine under the new rules—as are most hits by the K-pop mega group BTS.

But he says most of the songs of the popular girl group “Blackpink” are too fast, over the legal limit.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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