Healthy lifestyle spreads

Updated: 2011-03-30 07:54

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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 Healthy lifestyle spreads

Fu Qi (center), a 37-year-old PE (physical education) teacher at No 2 Experimental Primary School in Kuancheng district, Changchun, leads citizens in taking morning exercises at Changchun's Shengli Park, northeast China's Jilin province. Photo Provided to China Daily

Healthy lifestyle spreads

Healthy lifestyle spreads

More and more people are doing morning exercises as the young and elderly share the passion to get up early and stretch out in Changchun, northeast China, Tang Zhe writes

Most Chinese people in their 30s and 40s are not accustomed to getting up early in the morning and doing exercises before heading off to work. Then, at the weekend or during holidays, they seem more likely to sleep until noon and then spend their spare time in front of a computer than think about physical well-being.

However, Fu Qi, a 37-year-old full-time primary school teacher, is bucking that trend. She turns on her small stereo at 6:10 each morning, 365 days of the year, at Shengli Park in Changchun and works out with a growing band of enthusiasts.

Starting last May, Fu, who looks like she is in her 20s, has led a growing group of predominantly older citizens in morning exercises - even during the Spring Festival when most people choose to stay at home and away from the cold weather.

Fu, a former marathon athlete, returned to her hometown of Changchun after retiring from the Beijing Huochetou sports team in 1998. She spent four years as an aerobics instructor in a gym and then became a sports teacher at the No 2 Experimental Primary School in Kuancheng district.

She stayed fit by running in the park until one day she saw dozens of people dancing in an open area. She thought the music was monotonous and decided to come up with some new movements to more dynamic songs.

"Once I started, they (the participants) didn't want to let me go," said Fu, who leaves for work straight after morning exercise. "I really feel happy to dance with these uncles and aunts, and I couldn't find it in myself to let them drift away due to my absence."

A few days after Fu volunteered to lead the dance, no less than 200 people joined the squad, and the number increases in summer when roads around the area are full of people.

"We start at 6:10 in the morning as Miss Fu has to go to work at 7:30. This is very exhausting and we are very grateful to her," said a 53-year-old woman, who was 65kg and has lost 10kg since taking part in the exercises. "Few young people have the spirit of utter devotion now, but she has helped us be happier and healthier.

"Most working people are reluctant to get up early, but we love to dance here, it even makes our daily work easier and more enjoyable," she said. "I'm retired now, but I feel I am becoming younger and younger. She makes our bodies healthy and gives us much happiness."

It's hard for the older folk to learn a one-hour set of aerobics set to music, but it's even harder for Fu to choreograph a different series of movements each month, which is demanded by her "students".

Most of the songs are pop with a quick rhythm.

"They are quick learners and always ask for updates so they can keep their bodies and brains active," said Fu. "We also have some special movements for summer, which comprise dancing, exercises, pop music and yoga, to prevent arthritis, scapulohumeral periarthritis and lumbar disc herniation."

Like most people, Fu sometimes feels weary and contemplates a rest from her "second job", but she finds herself unable to give it up.

Healthy lifestyle spreads

"It snowed extremely heavy one day and I thought to myself that I finally had a rest day, but when I went for a walk in the park, everyone was there and, of course, we danced that day," she said.

Fu is not the only young person to devote herself to such community service.

Kong Xianglei, a 21-year-old dancer who has just graduated from university, volunteered to teach cha-cha at the South Lake community and also teaches middle-aged women how to live a more confident and fulfilling life.

"I teach them dancing here just because I want to contribute something to society," said Kong, who has taken part in Shanghai Dragon TV's talent show China's Got Talent.

Drawn by Kong's passion and confidence, his dancing "team", which comprises mainly females in their 40s and 50s, carried on practice at South Lake Park through the winter.

"We swept the snow in the park by ourselves even when the temperature was 40 Celsius below 0," he said. "Everyone wrapped themselves up in thick clothes, all you could see were the eyes, but we keep on dancing the cha-cha full of passion.

"All of us have pressure in our lives. What we should do is learn how to release the pressure. It all depends on if your choice is to have a sad day or a happy one," said Kong, who asks his team members to shout "I'm 20" no matter how old they are.

"You can never dance good cha-cha without enough confidence, so tell yourself 'I'm the best' when you wake up and never forget to smile," he said.


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