There was a time when Beijing was recognized as the model for a healthy population with a fresh diet and regular exercise, but alas, it is no more.
These days, Beijingers are not only embracing Western lifestyles but also Western idea of good health. As a result, a chance has come for expats to inject a little foreign treatment into local lives – enter heyrobics into Chaoyang Park, led by Linus Holmsater from Sweden.
“Our most important rule is to have fun. You never see people laugh as much as when they are doing heyrobics,” Holmsater, 25, said.
And while the exercise is certainly enjoyable, nothing compares to its physical benefits – heyrobics comes second to cross country skiing in terms of burning calories.
Sharing some properties of aerobics, heyrobics encompasses diverse movements, strength training, running and stretching. One important difference though is that the trainer stands in the center of a circle, allowing participants to look into the eyes of everyone involved.
Holmsater, winner of the 2008 Great Wall Marathon, runs classes in heyrobics at Chaoyang Park every Sunday at 5:15 pm, to stop what he sees as a rapidly fattening society.
“You no longer see Chinese people exercise much and those that do are usually retired. Young people do almost nothing, which is becoming a huge problem,” he said.
Holmsater’s statement has a definite ring of truth around it. According to an international study, published in the journal of the American Medical Association, smoking is on the rise and Chinese are taking up the habit at an earlier age that ever before.
Added to that, the National Task Force on Childhood Obesity gave a presentation at the annual meeting of the World Health Organization, noting that almost one in five children under seven are overweight in this country, second only to the United states.
“Cheap public transport means people don’t ride bikes anymore. Those that own cars just feed pollution into the air and completely bypass their own daily exercise,” he said.
“This combination of convenience and laziness will cause major health problems and end up being extremely expensive for the government in the long-term.”
The same concern was a factor in the 1970s in Europe.
When “Health for All” was launched at the Alma Ata conference in Kazakhstan in 1978, there was a dire need of urgent action by all governments to protect and promote good health for the people of the world.
In Europe, the resulting policies had a significant impact. Those that had stayed in shape through daily exercise began to visit gyms and other types of organized training. It was also at this time that Holmsater’s father, Johan Holmsater, began to develop what would become one of the most popular forms of training in Sweden today, Holmsater said.
Getting fit in the city is expensive, with the cost of gyms and pools constantly on the rise, Holmsater said. He believes heyrobics is an economical and long-term answer to the question of how to improve public health.
“I would love to cooperate with schools and authorities to get people in shape. My dream is to make heyrobics become the biggest sport in China,” he said.