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One is never too old for rigorous workouts, says Xi'an's 'parallel bars granny'

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-11-28 16:46

XI'AN -- One is never too old to work out, says 85-year-old Zhang Huifang as she performs stunning acrobatic moves on parallel bars.

It is 4:30 am in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province. The sun won't rise for another three hours, but Zhang is already jogging in a park. After a four kilometer power walk warm-up, she begins her daily intensive workout regime on parallel bars, which has made her something of a celebrity in the park.

Dubbed "parallel bars granny," Zhang is not a professional gymnast, but is nevertheless an inspiring figure for exercisers in her neighborhood.

Zhang usually kicks off her impressive routines with high leg lifts performed at speed. Then she moves on to curl-ups, gripping one bar and placing her legs on the other. She can even do that single-handed. She also swings her legs while sitting on the bars. Without taking a rest, she wraps up her three-hour exercises with dozens of sit-ups and push-ups.

Zhang began to do exercises in the park eight years ago when her village was urbanized. Bidding farewell to farm work, she now kills time by working out. She has become addicted to a healthy habit: the parallel bars exercises that have made her a local celebrity.

The old lady is one of the growing number of Chinese fitness fanatics who have answered the government's call for people to exercise more in order to build "a healthy China" and to enable the country to become a world sports power.

Many parks are equipped with fitness facilities. Square dancing, a form of group dancing in public squares, has become a popular exercise among the elderly nationwide.

"Working out makes me happy and healthy," Zhang says.

It can be quite dangerous for the elderly to perform such difficult movements. But Zhang says the ones she uses are her own creation and that they suit her well.

"I think keeping exercising is the most important thing," she says.

"She is never absent except when it's rainy or snowy," says Tang Defu, 82, an exerciser in the park, "She has set a good example for us."

Zhang follows a strict lifestyle routine. She goes to bed before 10:00 p.m., gets up at 4:00 a.m. and walks to a park one kilometer from home. During daytime she also takes care of two young great-grandchildren at home.

"Young people are too busy with their work today. I hope everyone can spend more time keeping fit and living healthily," she says.

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