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
2. LISTEN TO INTERVIEWS/PODCAST
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
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
5. STAY CONSISTENT
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?