A fitness regimen mostly practiced by Chinese students for half a century is likely to be a catalyst for the country’s adults who want to shift their sedentary lifestyles.
China’s top sports governing authority has recently called on employees of government bodies, their affiliated institutions and enterprises nationwide to exercise more, starting by taking part in the so-called broadcast calisthenics, a compulsory exercise routine at primary and high schools across the country.
Systems that include related training, competitions and advocacy should be set up to ensure that the routine is followed, Gou Zhongwen, director of the General Administration of Sport of China, said recently.
“We will also carry out checks on the implementation of the exercise routine and release annual results to the public,” he said.
Introduced to schools in 1951 and updated to its ninth version in 2011, the calisthenics program requires participants to go through a series of synchronized movements to recorded instructions and rhythmic music.
Gou said the program is easy to learn and convenient, and it yields health benefits equivalent to moderate exercise.
By expanding it from schoolyards to other public spaces, the administration aims to inspire more adults to ease into an active and healthy lifestyle.
According to a report released by the administration in 2015 looking into the physical activity of Chinese citizens, only about 15 percent of those aged 20 to 69 exercise on a regular basis, defined as doing at least 30 minutes of moderate activity three times or more a week.
Lack of exercise has contributed to the rising incidence of chronic illnesses in recent years, posing a significant health threat to public health, according to a guideline issued on July 15 by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, to promote awareness and strengthen disease prevention.
Qiu Ru, an official with the administration’s sports-for-all department, said that since its inception the calisthenics program has accompanied several generations into adulthood.
“It is also expected that the emotional bonds with the program developed during school years will motivate a wider population to start exercising,” she said.
Shi Xue, a 25-year-old government employee in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, said she sometimes takes part in the group fitness routine in the office building at around 10 am on weekdays.
“I feel more energetic after sweating a bit, and it’s relaxing to take a break from busy work,” she said. “The movement also works to relieve stress in my lower back.”
Gou, the administration’s director, said the public is also encouraged to choose at least one form of exercise based on each individual’s health status.
“Some highly vigorous sport activities, such as marathons, have been booming in recent years, but not everyone is physically capable of such intensity,” said Li Yanhu, a physician at the administration’s sports medicine institution.
“A scientific approach to exercise should abide by the principles of being moderate, gentle, balanced, incremental and personalized.”