On a school-day evening, when 17-year old Zubaer was supposed to be studying at home, his father Mushfequer Rahman Chowdhury took him to the Bangladesh Gym in Mohammadpur for a workout.
The father wants his only son to do some physical exercises regularly at the nearest gym. For a change, breaking the mundane schedule of going to school and then to the coaching centre only seemed like a good idea to his father.
"There is no playground or any open place where children can play or ride a bicycle even! Existing playgrounds are either occupied or are club-oriented. So I took my son to the gym," said 40-year old private job holder Mushfiquer.
Mushfiquer and his son began warming up in the gymnasium on the first day, soon after they took admission. Zubaer got on an exercise bike while his father went for the treadmill.
There were around 30 people in the gym that evening. For the last 12 years, 28-year old police officer Chayan Saha has allocated one and a half hours every day for the gym. "I believe exercising increases immunity to diseases, because, for the last 10 years, I have not got a fever. Using the gym is my way of keeping fit."
"Being in the police department, I often become exhausted after investigating different types of crimes. Regular exercise relaxes me," added Chayan Saha.
Mahbubul Alam, a doctor working in the intensive care unit of Labaid hospital, also comes to the gymnasium. "The city is no longer liveable. More and more people are coming to the gymnasium to keep fit both physically and mentally. For me, exercise provides a sound sleep," said Mahbubul.
Mainly three types of people are interested in going to gymnasiums; people who are becoming health conscious, people with the hope of becoming bodybuilders for competitions, and people who come on the suggestion of their physicians to seek relief from pain and health complications.
Rakib Prince, who owns seven gymnasiums in the city, including two exclusively for women, said that the number of gymnasiums has increased rapidly in the city over the last 10 years.
In 2011 there were only four gymnasiums in the Mirpur area, now there are 24. There were only three gymnasiums in Mohammadpur then, now there are nine.
There were only around 20-25 gyms in Dhaka just eight years back. More than 300 gyms have been opened in the city since then, over two hundred are unisex while 50 others are exclusively for women. Larger business groups like Jamuna Group and Bashundhara Group are also taking interest in opening high quality gymnasiums.
From its launch in 2011, nearly 10 thousand people have become members of the Mirpur branch of Bangladesh Gym. Daily, on average, this branch receives 300 people while its Mohammad branch receives 150 people.
Early mornings and evenings are the busiest times. Some people like hitting the gym before starting the bustle of work, while others come in the evening after work. Opening at 6 in the morning, this gym remains open till 11 at night.
"As there are not many parks in the city where people can go for a walk and do exercises, the number of gym-going people is increasing, consequently the number of gymnasiums is increasing," said Rakib Prince, a gym trainer. He thinks everyone should do some physical exercises daily for at least 45 minutes, apparently the key to keeping fit both physically and mentally.
Anyone who wants to use Bangladesh Gym has to register as a member for Tk2000, and pay a monthly fee of Tk1000. But the amount of money for membership and monthly fee varies with location and the quality of the gymnasium.
There are a group of health conscious people who would rather buy gym equipment and exercise at home. A trainer said that it is not always the right way because it might do more harm than good. "If you go to a gym, you need to follow rules of exercise under the supervision of a trainer. They will show you how and what to do. But at home, few people know the right steps," Rakib elaborated.
Trainer Rakib suggests increasing the intake of food when taking up gym exercises. Knowledge and implementation of a healthy diet is essential. A trainer will help you the most in this regard too. If you do more exercise and eat less than you need, it may have a boomerang effect," he pointed out.
Some people get trainers to come to their home. Another trainer named Nazmus Sakib said that trainers charge Tk30,000 to Tk50,000 a month, depending on their quality, and provide private training for at least five days a week.
Gymnasiums also see a great number of dropouts. Rakib said that nearly 70 per cent of people do not come to the gym regularly after admission. One of the reasons is that they lose interest after a few days. Some give up because of pain, and some leave because they do not get the desired result.
Anika Shana has been going to the gym for the last four years to keep fit. She does not feel uncomfortable going to unisex gyms like Mash Burn in Simanta Shambhar. She observed that women-only gyms do not have skilled trainers or the latest equipment. Nazmus says that only about ten per cent of the people who come to the gym are women.