“It’s 7 p.m. now in Beijing”

5 min readDec 12, 2022


Today we present another insightful article written by Yuge Zhao, in which she shares her point of view about the cultural differences between practicing sports here in the UK, compared to her native country, China.

Let’s find out what she has prepared for us!

It is 7 p.m. now in Beijing. The lights in the office are off one by one, but the lights in the gyms and parks are just on. Whether jogging, working out, or just walking after dinner, people can always find their way to exercise and stay healthy.

So, how do Chinese people exercise daily?


From my experience and that of people around me, it is one of the choices of many Chinese people to exercise in a fitness club that provides professional fitness equipment. Data in the relevant survey report also support this. According to the results of Deloitte’s 2019 Prospective Industry Research Institute, the total number of gym members in China’s 18 major cities has reached 8.79 million. The average fitness population penetration rate is 3.9%. Although the proportion is not as high as that of some developed countries (20% in the United States, 15% in the United Kingdom, and 8% in Japan), it keeps rising!

Different people have different preferences in the choice of gym types. For example, I like swimming, so I will choose the places that provide professional swimming pools; some are from universities or government departments, and others are from private fitness centres. I also like Pilates. Having a coach to guide such a sport with high requirements for movement standards is necessary, so the Personal Training Studios become a suitable choice. In addition, 24-hour self-service gyms are getting popular in recent years. CrossFit fitness training, which originated in the United States, is also welcomed by more and more office workers because of its flexible and novel operation mode.


During COVID-19, many cities implemented a lockdown policy, and public places were closed. To achieve the goal of physical activity, many people exercise at home. Apps like Keep that provide online sports courses have become the first choice. In addition, many fitness KOLs broadcast live on social platforms such as TikTok, leading the audience to exercise at home. For example, Liu Genghong, a famous fitness expert, was watched live by over a million people during peak hours.


After I moved to the UK, I deeply felt the people’s love for outdoor sports. According to the report, 16% of people said they often exercise by cycling outdoors, 14% like running or jogging outdoors, and 4% prefer surfing, sailing, rowing and other water sports. People here are good at feeling nature and challenging themselves to gain happiness. In China, the “Love of Landscape” is the core and gene of Chinese traditional culture. People can all enjoy themselves in nature. Traditional Chinese outdoor sports include mountaineering, boating and hiking. As a result of the integration of culture and modern outdoor sports such as mountain biking, surfing and skiing are also popular in China.


During the morning, you can always see older people in groups playing Tai Chi or doing other Wellness Gymnastics. These wellness gymnastics often focus on “overcoming hardness with softness” which seems slow but powerful. Most of them take Taiji and Yin Yang dialectical ideas in traditional Chinese Confucianism and Taoism as their core ideas and integrate multiple functions such as self-cultivation, physical fitness, and combat. For a long time, the audience of wellness gymnastics has been chiefly the elderly. However, in recent years, more and more young people have become interested in wellness gymnastics as the government attaches importance to and publicises traditional culture. Even in some universities, wellness gymnastics have been included in physical education assessment.

In the evening, the parks in the city will become lively again. You will see the “Chinese Dama” (middle-aged women) in a group of twenty or thirty people dancing in the square under cheerful music. Square dance is more like school gymnastics for the elderly. It is suitable for the muscles of the elderly and prevents various diseases caused by ageing, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, etc. Different from school gymnastics with fixed music, square dance can have a variety of choices in music. For example, you can choose the popular music loved by the elderly to improve the rhythm of the moves and make them more cheerful. The popularity of wellness gymnastics and square dancing has formed a unique “Park Exercise Culture” in China’s city parks.

In terms of exercise time, University students and office workers tend to exercise during their lunch break or after school or work, while some are used to running in the early morning or late at night. Middle-aged and older people prefer to exercise in the early morning or late evening to keep fit. Primary and secondary school students complete their sporting goals in school activities. All in all, the importance of physical exercise is gradually taking root in the hearts of every Chinese and giving rise to unique exercise habits for each individual. It is believed that in the future, traditional and popular forms of fitness will be better integrated into China for the benefit of every Chinese’s health.


Foresight Industrial Research Institute (2021) Analysis of the current market situation and competitive landscape of China’s gym industry in 2020, Domestic gyms have huge potential to increase their penetration rate [online] available from https://bg.qianzhan.com/report/detail/300/210302-ad5e55d5.html

Sohu (2020) Smart Fitness, CrossFit, cross-room platforms — How can gyms be saved from ‘money’? [online] available from https://www.sohu.com/a/367181042_120152148

Cain, L (2021) Britain’s Fitness Habits Revealed [online] available from https://www.hfe.co.uk/blog/britains-fitness-habits-revealed/

Cheng, T.O. (2007) Tai Chi: the Chinese ancient wisdom of an ideal exercise for cardiac patients. International journal of cardiology, 117(3), pp.293–295

Song, Y. (2015) Chinese square dance, media, and ideological dynamics in contemporary China




Driven by our passion for sports, we have made it our goal to contribute to the development of the sports world. // 私たちはスポーツへの情熱を胸に、スポーツ界の発展に貢献することを目標としています。