Xiao Su, a workout fanatic, was surprised to find out that the nondescript booth he spotted on his way to the gym was also a gym.
"I downloaded the app for it out of curiosity. I have to pay 99 yuan (.86) deposit for registration with my ID number and phone number, and it charges me one yuan per five minutes," Su told the Global Times Friday.
The booths only have enough space to hold two people at once - but only one of them can exercise as the gym's sole piece of equipment is a treadmill.
The gym booth is also equipped with an air conditioner, a mini-television and fan.
"I prefer traditional gyms over this shared gym because they have more options for exercising and are much more spacious," said Su.
"Moreover, you can wash after working out in traditional gym. Who's willing to walk out all sweaty and smelly?" he added.
Value for money
The gym booth app, "Mipao," only showed five booths available for users' to make appointment in Beijing on Thursday. After users make an appointment, they can access the booth by scanning a code on its exterior, according to the description on the app's iTunes download page.
The description explains that the application can record a user's movement and offer workout guidance afterward to "create a brand new, healthy and smart way of exercise."
China's first shared gym popped up in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province in February, the Chengdu Business Daily reported.
Unlike the Beijing running box, the Chengdu shared gym offers exercisers both machines and free weights, said the local newspaper report.
"Many of my colleagues have started using shared gyms because we usually have to get a yearly card with normal gyms, but with this one, you only pay when you use the machine," a Chengdu resident surnamed Tang, told the Global Times.
Tang said that he used to spend thousands of yuan on buying a yearly membership to a gym, but only worked out a few times a month. "I felt like most of the money I spent on the gym was wasted, but I only spend about 10 yuan every time I use the shared gym."
The shared gym concept is creative and shows that Chinese entrepreneurs are innovating in the shared economy, Hu Xingdou, economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times.
He noted that the sharing economy concept originated in the West, but China has an unmatched variety of sharing start-ups.
Of the sharing start-ups, bike-sharing firms such as Mobike, Ofo and Bluegogo are the most popular.
Ofo has stepped up its efforts to break into foreign markets. Currently, Ofo is operating in 100 cities globally including in the US, the UK and Singapore, with a total of 5 million bicycles in use and 100 million registered users, according to a document the firm sent to the Global Times earlier this month.
Following the success of the bike companies, other start-ups have thrown their hat into the ring, offering shared portable batteries and umbrellas.
In 2016, about 60 million individuals participated in the sharing economy in China, up 20 percent from the previous year, according a February report from the State Information Center's Sharing Economy Research Center.
Hu said that the emerging shared economy needs government supervision and attentive management by entrepreneurs as "some parts of the sharing economy are chaotic."
Beijing police forced a shared-bed start-up to cease operations in July shortly after it opened, China Central Television (CCTV) reported, without citing an official reason for the police action.
However, critics of the shared beds had expressed safety and hygiene concerns. "It was smelly inside and you could hear sounds from next door," a user named Xiao Li was quoted by CCTV as saying. He also said that he paid 12 yuan for just half an hour, "which is a little pricey."
Hu warned that people's bad behavior poses a threat to the sharing economy.
Many shared bikes have been broken, stolen by people who use their own locks on the bike or parked in inappropriate locations.
A man in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province, was sentenced to three years in prison in May for throwing a shared bike from a bridge to "vent his anger," New Express reported.