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Movie lover. Growing Capoeirista. Space enthusiast. Dedicated craftsman. And best of all, homegrown Los Angeles native. Wait, how in the hell did I end up in China!?
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After nearly 6 years of living in China, I can't believe that I've just finally gotten around to spending at least thirty minutes to an hour each day exercising. Well, sort of.
Why the mention about China? Because although its widely known across the world that daily exercise is recommended for good health, China is one of the very few places I've visited where the concept has been so effectively instilled into society—and carried out by the hundreds of millions, mind you—that it's pretty much become its own tradition.
Yep, every single day across China people of all ages make their way over to public spaces such as a parks, town squares, promenades, or track & fields in the evening and participate in a number of great aerobic activities like power walking, playing badminton, jogging, cycling, martial arts, and even square dancing. And I mean everyday.
These activities not only provide numerous life-saving physical health benefits such as weight loss, increased energy, improved metabolism, and enhanced immune and cognitive function, but they also serve as fantastic ways of alleviating stress, reducing the risks of dementia, and developing strong social ties. So, after all these years of witnessing these amazing benefits first hand, just what the hell have I been doing?
Well, I won't sit here and tell you that I've never even at least thought about joining in on the action. In fact, I've tried on a few occasions.
I once participated in a trial class for practicing Tai chi, for instance, within my first 3 months of moving to the country, but my dream was quickly shattered once the instructor tried to charge me nearly double the price of tuition just because I couldn't speak Mandarin. I never tried Tai chi again.
Cycling? I've had my fair share of rides since an ex-GF bought me my own GIANT bike back in 2014, but I've always considering it more of a 2x a month type of activity, if that.
Badminton? Too gentle of a sport. Jogging? I just can't seem to enjoy running enough to keep at it.
And square dancing? I've never tried it, but even though I considered it as one of China's most popular traditions that I'd love to see carried out across town squares in the US, the fact of the matter is, its mostly for women and folks over 50.
Now, don't get me wrong, I have made sure to participate in plenty of other fun health and fitness activities over the years—stuff I already loved doing before arriving in China and still do until this day. I've played basketball, swam, hit the gym, and practiced Capoeira and MMA on occasion. But therein lies "the problem".
Most recently, I've discovered that nothing beats the tremendous benefits placed upon on both your mental and physical health than getting in more simple but highly effective daily exercise. After all, in a day and age where I've just entered the most dynamic years of my life—aka the dirty thirties—and am investing more and more time towards things like personal growth, career development, and building prosperous relationships while living abroad in Shanghai, China, my ability to take part in more frequent fitness routines to help keep my mind sharp, body in shape, and endorphins sky high has become more important than ever. And as of late I've fell in love with one practical, easy-going exercise that hits all the right marks: power walking.
That's right, I fell in love with power walking right after my maiden trip, which was less than a month ago as of the posting this article. One miraculous day I finally decided to lace up my Nikes, hop on my scooter, throw on some headphones, and make my way over to Shanghai's Century Park to join the hundreds of healthy looking Chinese locals that walked and jogged around the exterior of the city's biggest park each and everyday.
The walk—about 2x that of my normal speed—took approximately 1 hour, and by the time I finished I had felt completely rejuvenated. Not only was it a fairly easy workout that had my body moving, blood pumping, and lungs working harder than usual, but two days later I wound up feeling less stressed, more energized, and my overall mood was far much better than it had been in the past days. Now this was something I could get used to!
Since then I've completed 6-7 more trips around Century Park—I try to go 2-3x a week—and, in addition to continuing to play basketball and practicing martial arts, I'd say that I've been experiencing some pretty positive results.
What's more, walking has been largely fun for me due to 5 factors, of which I'd also love for you to try should you consider joining in:
1. WALK FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR
Everybody's different, but for me, the first 40 minutes into my walking usually feels like a warm-up. It's only after that that the real challenge begins and I start to experience a workout. To reap the most benefits, try walking for at least an hour. The more intense the workout, the more fun you'll have knowing you're hard work will pay off.
2. LISTEN TO INTERVIEWS/PODCAST
You've downloaded new songs, made a solid playlist of your favorite hits, and uploaded them to your phone. You're all set and ready to go, but 30 minutes into your walk you find yourself bored of what you're listening to. So why not try something different?
I highly recommend listening to interviews and podcasts; after all, they'll provide more entertainment during your trip and can even last the whole duration of the workout.
So, head over to Youtube, search for your favorite interviews or podcasts, copy the link, and use a free online video downloader and converter to grab the MP3. Thank me later!
3. BE A SOCIAL WALKER
Walking with family and friends is a great way to have fun and stay motivated during your workout. What's more, you can even find a communal space such as a park, sports center, or track and field, where you may find hundreds of others doing the same thing.
As a reminder, it's probably best to start your workout between 6:30 and 7:30pm. People will have already gotten off work, eaten dinner, and made their way outside by then.
4. DO YOUR PUSH-UPS & SIT-UPS RIGHT AFTER
After walking, commit to doing a set number of push-ups and sit-ups. Walking helps tone up the entire body, so it's the perfect time to add in the extra workout for better results. Get those bad boys out of the way while you're still in the zone and before you get too lazy to do them at home!
5. STAY CONSISTENT
And lastly, staying consistent in your walking routine is the best way to achieve your desired outcome. Commit to walking X number of times each week for however long you feel you can hang (Again, try for at least an hour). The most gratifying experience you can have is seeing and feeling the results of all the hard work you've put in. Remember, without struggle, there’s no progress!
So there you have it. After 30 years on this planet I've finally gotten around to taking the importance of daily/frequent exercise seriously, and it took nearly 6 years of living in China to help persuade me. Now, only question remains: Will you join me?
Travel Blogger. ESL Teacher. Optimistic Millennial Adventurer! -->