Chinese young generation shows growing interest in healthy living
By Erica Pitzi, Liu Jiaxin
"I have a lot of energy, so I have always liked being active."
The sheer amount of Chinese people running in the park or working out at the gym shows a sudden surge of interest in healthy living here, particularly among the younger generation. Whether they know it or not, they're answering the call from the government which aims to get more than 500 million people participating in a physical exercise by 2030.
Runners believe that running can improve heart and lung functions. A runner told CGTN that running makes them happy and helps them lose weight.
While it is free to exercise at the park, many young people are choosing to spend up to 2,000 U.S. dollars a year for a membership at a high-end gym to participate in the latest trend fitness programs, like Crossfit. There are many gyms with Crossfit groups opening up across China, nearly every week.
"I used to run, I biked, did pilates and yoga but I never really felt like I saw improvement. Whereas with Crossfit, you actually are learning skills like handstands and pull-ups and things that help you see yourself getting stronger or more flexible," said Kristen Lum, a Crossfit fan who's been sticking with workout for years.
"I think Crossfit is more like a community. You can train yourself here. You can also meet a lot of new friends here," said Wang Xuezhou, gym member of Crossfit Slash, one of the fitness centers in Beijing.
Just a couple of years ago, China's fitness market generated more than six billion U.S. dollars in revenue in 2017. That same year, the U.S. fitness market generated five times that number. The difference is, China's annual growth in the fitness sector is around 12 percent versus America's mere 2.5 percent. So, it won't take long for China to catch up.
Why is the fitness business booming?
"As China has become wealthier, people naturally want to find hobbies, find things to do, they want to go see things, go do things. So, not op of this, what you see is people realize 'oh, I don't feel good. I've spent all day working and my back is uncomfortable, neck uncomfortable.' You want to change that, you want to get healthier," said Tim Hill, head coach of Crossfit Slash.
"I think it's the trend and the education that gets you to know that this is a nice thing, that this is a cool thing to do," said Cui Zhaohua, gym member and activist of sports.
Some say getting into shape is becoming somewhat of a new status symbol in China. Remember, the millennial generation which makes up a big chunk of the middle class has a lot more disposable income. Many of the fancy fitness centers are so packed. There is even waitlist to get into the classes. The big driving force is social media. Young people posting to their WeChat moments and then their friends want to do it too.
"Sometimes you see a lot of fit guys on Weibo or WeChat. You can feel a kind of peer pressure. This encourages you to train yourself and get better," said Wang.
Whatever is driving them, be it friends on social media, the government's call to action, or just mere exposure to more information on health and wellness, there's no doubt this active young generation is leading the country to a healthier China.