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Walking their way to health

By Peng Yining | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-05 01:32


Walking their way to health

Participants stretch their bodies with the help of poles in the Beijing Olympic Forest Park, to warm up or recover before and after walking. Zou Hong / China Daily

According to a report from China Nordic Walking Association, China has around 100,000 Nordic walkers and 20,000 people practice regularly.

In Beijing, there are 30 parks which have Nordic walking clubs. More than 100 government units and companies organize walk training for their employees. It was also introduced in 2008 Beijing Olympic promotion events, and in 2010, Nordic walking orienteering was part of China Orienteering Competition.

Since 2008, Beijing has been annually organizing an International Nordic Walking Event with over 1,000 participants each time, including walkers from the Japan Nordic Walking Association and from Finland.

"Nordic walking is becoming a popular park game, or exercise for Chinese people," said Yao Xinxin, head coach of the International Nordic Walking Association in China. As a sports science specialist at the China Institute of Sport Science, he was the one who first introduced Nordic Walking to China.

"Now Chinese companies produce our own walking poles and other accessories," he said. "We are also making the exotic sport more localized."

Yao said in the Europe, Nordic walkers more often workout as individuals, but in China it is more like a group game.

The walking group in Beijing Olympic Forest Park has grown from 10 people five years ago to more than 80 in 2013. During the weekends, the number could be more than 100, said Hou Xiaodong, 62, the group organizer.

Most walkers are retirees, Hou said. Although most senior people live with their children in China, their busy schedules and the gap between generations mean elderly urgently need a healthy social life as well as physical activity.

"It is boring and lonely jogging or playing tai chi by yourself," Hou said. "But you can chat with your friends while Nordic walking. You can work out and socialize at the same time."

After setting out, walkers in the forest park split as their walking speeds vary, but still stick with smaller groups. Hou and another eight walkers talked about news, TV programs, and soup recipes. Laughter bursts out occasionally in the group.

Hou is constantly greeting other walkers as they pass by. "I've gotten to know most people walking here. Having a nice talk with them is a great start of a day," she said. "Sometimes when I feel lazy, I still come to walk, because I would miss my friends who walk and they would ask about me."

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