- Language Tips
I'm surprised there aren't more Chinese rugby players and wrestlers given the population's ability to push and shove every morning on the metro.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for being roughed up because I understand that time is money, and there's nothing more infuriating for a city dweller than being forced to wait on the platform while a train, that's too full to board, is staring you down.
But when it comes to tension in the mob forcing their way on to the escalator while a set of stairs remains idle, I'm dumbfounded. It's made me believe that the lack of athletes in the aforementioned sports could be attributed to one thing: poor general fitness levels.
How many times have you seen someone take the stairs rather than the easy ride up? If you say all the time, you have clearly never caught the train. The answer is very rarely.
I'm the first to admit that if I strain my neck to see where the stairs lead, I enjoy the lazy option.
I also have to come clean about something else: I'm not what you would describe as a perfect example of peak physical condition. Nor has my phone had a single missed call from Men's Health magazine regarding a proposed cover shoot.
When I asked my local train guard at South Huangpi Road Station in Shanghai just how many people he sees take the measly 31 stairs from the platform to the exit gates, he laughed, shook his head and said "not many".
At my gym in Shanghai's Putuo district, the problem starts to unravel.
Taking a run on the treadmill, I'm surrounded by people walking (both backwards and forwards, obviously). I can't judge them for the pace but rather praise them for showing up.
That's because most are aged over 50. Where are the young people?
Megafit Xiangyi Huacheng Center sales manager Johnny Wang says 60 percent of his 1,000-or-so members are aged 40 and above, but warns I shouldn't misread the situation.
"The young people in Shanghai are all at work or studying. They struggle to find time to go the gym because they're focused on building careers and creating savings for future investment and their families," Wang says.
Starting this year, the Ministry for Education launched a three-year program to monitor students' fitness levels in schools. Checks will be carried out by an independent organization and the results will be released to parents.
Officials are clearly trying to make exercise a habit for young people in the hope that they will continue in the future, as diseases associated with a lack of exercise continue to rise around the world.
A survey from last August by the 21st Century Education Research Institute claimed that almost 60 percent of college students only exercise twice a week.
I hope that I haven't made you feel too guilty and on reflection, I would hate to judge the hard-working young people trying to make something of themselves.
Plus, I come from a country with the highest rate of adult obesity in the world.
But hopefully, we can all take on those pesky stairs at least a few times a week. We'll feel better for it.
(China Daily 01/23/2013 page19)