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5 Reasons Chinese are Healthy and Fit and You Can Be Too
In 2002, the obesity rate in China was only 2.9%. At the same time, the United States' rate was 33.9%. If you don't believe the statistics, take a walk in a Chinese metropolis. While it is more common than it used to be to see overweight people, it is still rare. Here are five cultural reasons Chinese people are mostly fit.
Reason #1: A LOT of Walking – On the way to work a typical Chinese will walk to the bus stop (or subway stop), stand on the bus, and then walk from the bus stop to his office. This is likely to be a good 30 minutes of walking just to get to work, with the process repeated to go back home. Upon arriving back home, many walk to the market to pick up food for dinner and then carry that food all the way home, walking. You get the idea? Walking is healthy and Chinese people do it constantly. When there is a holiday, what do they do? Go to the pedestrian street. Yes, that is what they are actually called here because they are filled with more crowds of people walking. If you want to be fit, try ditching your car and taking public transportation. It will also save you lots of money.
Reason #2: Fat People are Called out on it – In the West there it is an unspoken rule to never comment on a large person's weight. Chinese people have no such inhibition. If they see a fat person, they may walk straight up and say “You are fat” or perhaps more delicately “You are the fattest person I have seen” or maybe “Can I have a picture with you?” Obesity is the exception so large people get stared at and commented to. Elderly Chinese women are referred to as “Ayi,” meaning “Auntie.” These aunties often have a reputation for being busybodies toward even strangers. I cannot imagine what they would say to their own children if they became fat.
Reason #3: Elderly People Dance – The TV is not the main source of entertainment for elderly Chinese. Most enjoy getting out of their house and socializing. Our apartment is next to a river. Each morning and evening scores of Chinese ladies (with some very bold guys) gather for dancing. A leader brings music and a boombox and teaches the group the choreography. This can start as early as 6:00AM and last until after 10:00 PM, which is good exercise, but could disturb some people's sleep. Our neighborhood put up a sign right at their dancing place reminding viewers to be courteous, keep the noise down, and consider others.
Reason #4: Healthy Eating Habits – Chinese food is for the most part healthy (aside from the foods tainted with toxins). Artificial flavors are seldom used. Meat is consumed in small quantities. Deep fried food is considered extremely unhealthy and people believe it will cause sore throats, blisters, and a cough. Vegetables are cooked simply and are very popular. There are so many types of “greens” that my friends and I have taken to calling them “Chinese Vegetable Number ...” as it is hopeless trying to remember all of their names. Instead of sweet desserts loaded with sugar, fruit is often the dessert.
Reason #5: Healthy Use of Leisure Time – Even though most commuters need to walk for around one hour going to and from work, they will still go out for a walk in their free time. Our neighbors often work until 9:00 or 10:00 PM, and yet still make a point to go for a walk by the river everyday. Badminton, ping pong, swimming, football, and basketball are popular activities and they are played in gyms (or outdoors) with no air conditioning, meaning lots of fat-burning sweat.
Life in China is not always the most convenient, but it will undoubtedly help you become more fit.