China’s New Fashion: Health, Wellness & Fitness
Some say this news trend is driven by the increasingly ripped stars in Hollywood blockbusters and spread on social media.
Pictures of running tracks, steps, and amazing handstands are sweeping microblog Weibo and Twitter-like WeChat. Registration for some marathons is harder than buying a train ticket for the Spring Festival. Web users never tire of discussing body fat percentages and diet plans. Celebrities’ posts of their gym pictures always attract hits and fans.
“Keeping fit means a better life.”
Fitness classes, books and sportswear have cost her more than 30,000 Yuan over two years, It’s not a small amount, but it’s better than spending it on hospital bills.
In the 1980’s, most Chinese people had no awareness of physical fitness, believing the traditional saying that, Health depends on food rather than feet.
Lin Xianpeng, vice director of the Management College of Beijing Sport University, says the trend is due to fears about worsening health.
“Almost half the Chinese population is sub-healthy; millions people have chronic ailments; the cases of both diabetes and cardio-cerebral vascular diseases have reached 190-M,” says Lin.
Furthermore, insomnia and obesity rates have exceeded those of developed countries, and their continued rise is spreading among younger people.
“We need to be clear that, though China is getting rich, its people’s health should not be poor,” Lin says. “China should avoid being the sick man of Asia again.”
Public awareness of fitness begins when a nation’s GDP per capita hits US$5,000, says Liu Qing, deputy secretary-general at Chinese Association of Sport Industry. Should it surpass US$ 8,000, the fitness industry will be a pillar of the national economy.
China’s GDP per capita exceeded US$5,000 in Y 2011 and reached US8,016 last year, according to official data.
In Y 1995, the government issued the “Outline of Nationwide Physical Fitness Program”, pledging sports and health-building services would be aligned with national economic development.
Since then, all national 5-year plans have included programs on public fitness. Sports facilities, stadiums and games have entered a period of rapid growth.
In Y 2014, the government updated the fitness program into a national strategy.
In June, it released the national fitness program for Y’s 2016-2020, forecasting 435-M people will regularly play sport and the total sport-related consumption will reach RMB Yuan 1.5-T by Y 2020.
Sport will become the new engine to boost domestic spending in a slowing economy, said Liu Peng, Minister of China’s General Administration of Sport.
The fitness fad coincides with the growth of mobile Internet and a boom in entrepreneurship.
An estimated 1,700 Chinese sports and fitness apps have come online over the past 2 years. Most of them are startups aimed at beginners.
Companies offline are also competing for a share.
Smartphone makers constantly release fitness tracking bracelets; restaurants offer expensive low-calorie dishes; real estate developers sponsor customers to run marathon races abroad.
Fitness instructors are also in demand, experts urge caution in following online workouts.
Most Chinese gyms offer long-term memberships, usually for 6 months or a year, to offset the high cost. The fees can run to thousands of Yuan – beyond the means of many people.
But coaches are optimistic about the future, as it is a budding industry. The competition will become more professional, and consumers more sensible.
A popular saying in China has it that “Breaking a sweat deserves a feast.”
Have a Happy Thanksgiving