Sports in Beijing: The Fitness Trends in China’s Capital

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Sports are becoming more and more the focus of China’s new middle class – whether it’s running, yoga, spinning, or bouldering. It’s especially prominent in China’s capital: the Chinese are crazy for sports.

The parks are full of runners: more and more people are taking to the streets in Beijing.
The parks are full of runners: more and more people are taking to the streets in Beijing.

They run, cycle, climb, and dance – but all a bit more to the extreme than it is typical in Europe and the USA. Chinese athletes are getting started – inside into sports halls and outside into outdoor sports. The range of options is especially huge in the sports-crazy capital city of Beijing.

Residents will even brave the omnipresent smog that has a firm grip on Beijing for several days of the year. Every sport seems to be well received in the 12-million-inhabitant city. 



The Chinese have also adopted many athletic activities from Europe and the USA, though their interpretation often seems unusual. explains eight trendy sports in Beijing.

1. Running: Tartan track through the park

Air pollution aside, the residents of Beijing are downright run-crazy. Regardless of the time of day or night, the parks and streets are full of runners. The government and economic system have taken note of this trend, and are helping to make running even more popular. 


One of the most popular races in Beijing: the Undie Run – yet nobody wants to run on the tartan track (left).
One of the most popular races in Beijing: the Undie Run – yet nobody wants to run on the tartan track (left).
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This can be seen in the city’s large parks, such as the Olympic Forrest Park in the north of Beijing. In addition to the tarred footpath, an extra running track with a joint-friendly tartan coating was laid out on the five-kilometer-long circuit, and the stretch is illuminated around the clock. Popular is the Undie Run, where runners race in the cold February air in crazy costumes or even in their underwear.

At the park entrance, which form the start and end of the circuit, there are multiple well-equipped running shops, changing booths with lockable lockers, and even physical therapists who can treat runners on site in case of problems.

Video: Preparing for the Beijing Marathon



2. Cycling: Beijing needs more bike lanes


There are reportedly nine million bikes in Beijing – at least according to pop singer Katie Melua and her 2008 song “Nine Million Bicycles.” The number in 2016 might be a bit exaggerated – primarily because the Chinese have discovered the e-scooter. And yet: Beijing continues to invest in bicycles.

By the end of 2016, the number of public rental bicycles will have risen to 80,000 (currently approx. 65,000); in addition, the bike path network will have been expanded to 500 kilometers. A delicate little flower – in comparison: Munich already has over 500 km in bike paths on its main roads alone. It is still a start, one that could make cycling palatable to the people of Beijing again.

3. Spinning: Pedaling in the club


Those for whom the masses of traffic and the poor air in Beijing are nevertheless still too dangerous can switch to the indoor version of bicycling. The arduous workout on the stationary bikes has also long since caught on in Beijing, and thus is offered in seemingly every higher-quality fitness studio.

Usual spinning too boring? Also not a problem, since even the hottest spinning trends have found their way to China. Gu Cycle, for example, regularly offers a type of dance club-spinning. UV light and pumping bass instead of the sterile studio atmosphere, along with barbell units for the upper body while spinning.





4. Fitness: HIIT training in the park or the hotel

The classic fitness studio isn’t a bad choice in Beijing – but it is in all likelihood also one of the most boring. That's because the capital has significantly more to offer. High intensity interval training, HIIT for short, isn’t uncommon in Beijing anymore, either.

The team at Heyrobics really gets the inhabitants of Beijing sweating with one-hour bodyweight exercise workouts in all kinds of locations in the city. Whether it’s in the park, on the terrace of a bar, or on the roof of a hotel – Heyrobics sessions take place everywhere.


5. Climbing: No mountains? No problem!

What’s not available just gets built in China, and thus climbing athletes don’t have to go without their adrenaline kick, either. The climbing halls of O’Le Sports have five 12.5-meter high climbing walls with constantly changing routes, and the oldest climbing center in China (founded in 2008) also has access to a 150-square meter bouldering area.

6. Yoga and tai-chi: Meditation in Beijing

Those who want to find their inner center instead of a high-altitude euphoria are in the right place in Beijing. Yoga studios can be found in every neighborhood and courses are part of the standard in the larger fitness studios.


The popular sport of yoga: even though it seems odd, the Chinese love their exercises.
The popular sport of yoga: even though it seems odd, the Chinese love their exercises.
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It’s somewhat more traditional in the early hours of the multi-million metropolis. That's because the residents of Beijing meet in parks for tai-chi. Especially impressive are the meetings in Jingshan Park behind the “Forbidden City” – participation is expressly required for everyone.

7. Pavigym 3.0: High-tech gymnasiums



The complete opposite of the quiet and balanced tai-chi awaits the Chinese at the Pavigym 3.0. The concept can be quickly summarized thusly: boot camp meets Super Mario videogame. Every sense is challenged in the futuristic ambiance. Glowing sensor panels on the floor and walls let dusty medicine balls become training devices, and every participant’s performance is recorded.


8. Latitude: Airtime in Beijing


A Latitude hall in Beijing: a colorful sports paradise.
A Latitude hall in Beijing: a colorful sports paradise.

Things are a few turns slower, but no less exciting, with Latitude. Latitude is a trend from Australia and is actually really simple – but ingenious. One big hall, rows of giant trampolines, and no rules. It’s just about jumping and having fun.

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Florian Pertsch Author: Florian Pertsch