Let’s talk about fitness. Specifically, fitness in China compared to the United States. Obviously, this will be a big generalization and solely based on my experience and knowledge. As someone who has traveled throughout the US and China and been involved in numerous ‘fitness’ activities, I’ve noticed a significant difference in the two countries approach to fitness.
First, when I use the word fitness, i’m referring to the dictionary definition of “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” One of the biggest differences I’ve seen between the US and China is that the US seems to go all in, but it seems more segregated, while China is more lackluster, but seems more widespread. I’ll elaborate. In the US, there are things like Zumba, Crossfit, powerlifting, bodybuilding, jazzercise, P90X - which are all niche sort of workouts. Beyond that, there are countless different diets or ‘lifestyles’ associated with food. Vegetarian, vegan, the paleo diet, juicing, etc. When Americans get into these sorts of things, they really get into it. Have you ever met someone who was a vegan and not been told about it within 10 minutes of meeting them? These sorts of lifestyles aren’t extremely popular or widespread, but are prevalent in certain areas of the US.
Fitness in China, on the other hand, I think as a nation is more widespread than it is in the US. Sometimes, it’s not intentional. For example, many people commute to work, riding a ‘shared’ bike for a few kilometers, walking endlessly for a subway transfer, and finally, just walking as their sole means of transportation. Everyone walks in China. Beyond that, there are tons of mini-workout machines built into the sidewalk. Old people love to use these things early in the morning and right at sunset. Along with that, many open spaces such as plazas or courtyards will host, again, tons of old people who will practice dancing in a group. As many as 50 people will rhythmically move together, practicing their choreographed routine on warm summer nights. There are gyms in China, and people definitely workout. However, from talking with Chinese people, I think many of them like to engage in fitness through sports and not so much directly working out or running. Badminton, basketball, ping pong, and football are all big sports in China, and many people play them recreationally, either for the love of the game or to elevate their heart rate. In the US, however, I think many people, especially over the age of 30, engage in a more ‘direct’ fitness activity, such as running, swimming, or weightlifting.
Basically, when the US does fitness, they really do it. They go all out and dive right in, making it a lifestyle. China treats fitness as one aspect of their life, figuring out little ways to adhere to a healthier lifestyle without making it their main focus. In the US, there are extreme examples of super fat, but also super strong, like “Why are you this big?” type of strong. In China, however, there are some people like that, but in general, most people are just skinny or rocking the ‘dad bod’. Rarely do I see someone who is very muscular or very obese. Diet definitely plays a big part in this, but so does our cultural approach towards fitness. Sure, there are people in both countries who do and don’t adhere to the stereotypes I’ve listed. There is Crossfit in China just as there are moms in America who go on brisk walks four times a week without making ‘brisk walking’ the core focus of their life. Let me know what you think about the fitness differences between these two great nations!