Israel will pioneer the world’s first ever gym on a train in 2016
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One of the first trains that will receive Israel Railway's new gym car. Photo Credit: Laura Rosbrow

In a brilliant move for workers who commute long hours, Israel will introduce gym cars on its national railway

For workers who commute more than an hour each way to work, it can be challenging to fit in enough exercise. If you’ve ever had a lengthy subway or train commute, you’ve likely thought at some point, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a gym on this train? But right, that’d be way too dangerous to ever pull off.”

Until now.

Israel’s state-owned Israel Railways Company announced on Tuesday that it has contracted with Clal Insurance Group and EnGym, a beta stage Israeli startup, to add at least one gym car to the country’s most popular train lines starting in January, 2016. They did this to encourage healthy living and, not surprisingly, make a profit: The economically troubled railway will charge $30 per month for a monthly gym pass.

For now, the planned gym equipment in the car will only consist of stationary bikes and include safety padding in case the train stops or starts suddenly. But according to Israel Railway’s official announcement, “Soon, other exercise equipment will be added once Clal deems they are safe enough for a commute.”

The pilot program will start with the the Nahariya-Beer Sheva and Nahariya-Modi’in lines, which will receive two gym cars. If the program proves successful, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem and Binyamina-Ashkelon lines will follow later in 2016.

“Just like Dani Gold fought for the Iron Dome, I was an early believer in this program”

In a ceremony celebrating the official announcement of the gym car pilot program, which was held at the Hof Hacarmel train station in Haifa on Tuesday, Israel’s Minister of Transportation, Israel Katz, exclaimed, “When Israel Railways first sent their tender for this project five years ago, the Ministry of Transportation was skeptical. How could we insure so many travelers? Wouldn’t this be too dangerous, and too costly? Just like Dani Gold fought for the Iron Dome, I was an early believer in this program. It is a huge disservice to the many daily commuters that waste inordinate amounts of time on the train when they could be doing better things with their lives, including exercise. I must thank Israel Railways, Clal Insurance, and EnGym for making this program possible. And for the commuters out there, pedal away!”

Israel Katz posing for Geektime before the opening ceremony of Israel Railway's new gym program at Hof Hacarmel, March 31. Photo Credit: Geektime

Israel Katz posing for Geektime before the opening ceremony of Israel Railway’s new gym program at Hof Hacarmel, March 31. Photo Credit: Geektime

The gym will not only be on a train — it will also be smart.

EnGym provided the partnership both with patent-pending stationary bikes (the diagrams of which are still not being released to the press) and a smart app that will accompany your biking exercise routine and let you reserve bikes ahead of time.

Aryeh Ben Gvir, the company’s CEO, told Geektime, “The entire system will work using the EnGym smart phone app, which will send you an alert as soon as it detects that you are within a kilometer of the train station.”

While you are exercising, the app will coach you on what to do and will regale you with motivational messages and music if it detects your energy is flagging, such as the following cute quotes: “All aboard for getting fit!” or “Come on baby, do the locomotion!” The app will also connect to optional wearable devices that track your heart rate, weight, blood pressure and other fitness indicators, using the data to enhance your personalized fitness program.

But what if you get so involved in exercising that you forget to get off the train?

“No problem,” says Ben Gvir. “EnGym will know where your station is and can be programmed to send you an alert ten minutes beforehand.”

Freemium workout

EnGym will have a fremium model, with basic features available to free users. Those paying $4.99/month will also have access to premium features including health reports. Those using the service for free will have to watch commercials and receive personalized offers during their workout.

The startup has already received funding from Israel’s Ministry of Health, which will use the data EnGym generates to meet its “Prevention Health Partnership 2020” objectives.

Ben Gvir, who is 21, said that the idea for the startup occurred to him when he was an officer in the IDF’s elite 8200 intelligence unit.

“During my daily train commute, I would notice the soldiers with desk jobs were really flabby. I thought, we’re too young for this. Why not disrupt commuting by putting the motion back into locomotion?”

*Note of disclosure: Unfortunately, this is an April Fools’ Day joke, though many have thought it’s a good idea for a while, and supposedly it already exists in Japan (though we could not find any sources in English that confirmed this). Every aspect of this story is false, including the ceremony. But if enough people share this post, then we can be the train that we want to see in the world. 

Simona Weinglass contributed inventions and fabrications to this report.  

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Laura Rosbrow-Telem

About Laura Rosbrow-Telem

I am a social entrepreneurship enthusiast: This is what happens when a former social worker becomes a tech journalist. I mostly write about startups, technology, peace and justice issues, cultural topics, and personal stuff. Before Geektime, I was an editor at the Jerusalem Post and Mic.

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