Beijing puts the ‘work’ in workout

Compulsory workplace exercise has returned to Beijing after a three-year hiatus.

On August 9, employees all around the capital city assembled at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for eight minutes of aerobics to a soundtrack of lively music on Beijing Sports Radio.

Mandatory physical exercise in the workplace was introduced in the city in 1951, to improve general health. The practice was suspended in 2007 so Beijing Sports Radio could devote its time to Olympics coverage.

But the routine is back with a vengeance.

“The short-term goal is to involve 60 percent of the workforces in Beijing by 2011, and 70 percent of the workforces of the government,” said Beijing Federation of Trade Unions spokesperson Zhang Yujing in a Global Times report. “We want all state-owned enterprise workers to have restarted this routine by next year.”

Advocates hope that private businesses will adopt the twice-daily workout eventually as well.

Many employees have responded positively to the re-introduction of calisthenics. A worker identified as Mr Sun by the UK Guardian said, “I think this is really necessary, because people’s living habits are very bad now. They sit in the office the whole day.”

“A couple of stretches may still be the best way for most office workers in Beijing,” said Beijing Sport University‘s Wang Lin. “Instead of going to gyms after work, they have to fight hard to commute back home, where chores await.”

Others criticize the program as invasive and costly. “We cannot stop working at 10 a.m. to exercise while customers are waiting,” said an anonymous bank employee in the Global Times report.

The implementation of this program will cause Beijing Sports Radio to lose 200,000 yuan—or $29,549.08—in advertising revenue.

In addition to reinstating the program, the city has declared August 8 as National Fitness Day, and the entirety of August as National Fitness Month.

A number of recent surveys have reported an increase in many medical conditions and diseases in the workforce.

Though the country’s obesity rate of one out of 70 people is miniscule compared to the United States’ one out of three, it is the highest the previously food-insecure nation has experienced. In June, PBS reported that the obesity rate in China is increasing by 30 to 50 percent annually.

The current melange of dancing, yoga and tai chi is designed to combat these health issues. In the future, traditional forms of exercise, such as sports involving bamboo sticks and hacky sacks, will be included.

Natalie Orenstein/Newsdesk

VIDEO: Workplace exercise resumes in Beijing—CNTV English


Beijing workers shape up for return of compulsory exercises
UK Guardian, August 10, 2010

Beijing employees start work break exercises
People’s Daily Online, August 10, 2010

Reporter’s Notebook: Obesity on the rise in China
PBS NewsHour, June 1, 2010

Beijing workers to resume radio physical exercises
Before It’s News, August 5, 2010

Exercise drills return
Global Times, August 10, 2010

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