Healthy Chinese elders

One thing about China that never fails to impress me is how physically active retired people are. In Spain, old people are known for sitting in parks, maybe walking around slowly and conversing animatedly, and the only sport they do is playing petanque. Because playing dominoes and cards doesn’t count as a sport, right? Natjan’s post reminded me of this topic when she mentioned the story of Wang Deshun, an 80 year old Chinese man who rose to fame a couple of years ago due to his participation as a model in the China Fashion Week. He is in an amazing physical condition! And even though his case is very unusual, as he is an actor in martial arts films, it made me remember those ladies in the street gyms who can lift their leg up to their shoulders (I don’t think I could do that even when I was a baby).


One of the most popular activities for retired ladies in China is dancing. You can find them every evening after dinner in parks and squares. This activity is called 广场舞 guangchang wu in Chinese and it has become kind of controversial in recent years since people living in the buildings around the dancing spots complained of the noise. But at least the grandmas get to shake their booties! Now if only they would choose less horrible songs… Watch the following video to get an idea of how the dances are.  If you see them in the street you can totally join them!


I mentioned before the street gyms. But what are those? I’ve seen them mainly in Beijing and Shanghai, in Suzhou I can’t remember any right now. They consist of metal equipment that is installed in the street or in a park. There are several “machines” to exercise different parts of the body, like in a real gym! They are very useful and we used them a lot in Beijing. Because, you know, gym for free.

This is a

This is a “walking in place” machine.


Another sport that I witnessed in Beijing was swimming in the lake or in canals. The swimmers did not seem worried about the sanitary conditions of the water and also did not seem to feel the cold as they even swam in the winter! (But before the lakes froze in the gelid Beijing winter).

This was at the end of November. How was she not freezing?

This was at the end of November. How was she not freezing?

I would say “I hope I’m this active when I’m old” but I don’t like sports even now… so it seems highly unlikely! Sigh!

What do retired people usually do in your country?