Physical health is the most valuable property during one’s life time. If you have a sum of 100,000 dollars of property, then health would be the “1”, and your real estate, cars, stocks, and deposits are the “zeros” after the “1”. Hence, a person will lose everything they have without health. Physical activity can improve both physical and mental health. Americans place great value on health and exercise. There are various activities among different age groups. Although China has almost four times the population that America has, and has spent unlimited funding to train Chinese athletes, we only won half of the number of gold medals that the US won at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The difference of attitude towards exercise may be the reason for this result.
I would like to introduce the kinds of physical activities involved in our daily lives, based on different age groups.
In elementary school, students usually jump rope during their breaktime in school. There are several ways to jump rope: single jump, double jump and crisscross jump. Students can jump rope with themselves or a partner. A group of students can play long rope jumping, in which two rope turners swing the rope, and students enter, one by one, from one side then run through and exit the other side. I did not do well in this activity, so I always wanted to be the rope turner. As students grow up, they start to learn some gymnastics skills, such as forward roll and backward roll in physical education class (physical training). Chinese students from elementary school to high school perform two 20 minutes radio calisthenics per day; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Students perform calisthenics following the guidance from radio broadcast accompanied by music.
As students grow up, they become taller and stronger. Therefore, they begin to participate in activities that need more strength and endurance. For example, 800 meters run, high jump, long jump, horizontal bar, and parallel bars. In middle school, students do exercise not only for fun and physical health improvement, but also to prepare for their High School Entrance Examination. The score of physical education counts for 30 points in the total of 570 points. Thirty points does not seem that important considering the other 540 points, but from 169,000 students that took the High School Entrance Examination, only 69,000 students could get into high schools. Moreover, only 6,000 students were matriculated to the top 10 high schools. Therefore, even 1 point is crucial. There are three parts of the physical education examination, each worth 10 points. For girls, they are long jump, sit up, and 800 meters run; for boys, they are long jump, pull up, and 1500 meters run. When I was in my last year of middle school, we ran 5,000 meters every day in school and exercised 1-2 hours after school. All middle schools hold two school-wide games a year, one in early April, and another on the last day of September. Those days were the only days in which students could relax and temporarily forget about exams and homework.
In high school, as the score of physical education is no longer part of the College Entrance Examination, students have less emphasis on physical exercise. All mandatory physical activities include: three physical education classes per week and two radio calisthenics every day. Students learn how to play basketball, soccer and volleyball in class. Students also learn some more complicated skills. I even learned how to do hurdling when I was in high school. As in middle school, high schools also hold two school-wide games a year. Our class advisor, who was a teacher serving as the supervisor of a class of 50 students, valued the importance of physical health. We were asked to arrive in school 30 minutes before the first class in the morning. Students were divided in four groups and had 4×100 meters relay races. Sometimes we played basketball and soccer. Our class advisor was also our math teacher, so he designed some interesting games involving mathematical problems. I really appreciated him for the exercise in the morning, which made me feel energetic all day. My period in high school was intense, but I still see it as one of my happiest times.
In college, students have two physical education classes every week, in their freshman and sophomore year. They have more choices to participate and choose the physical activities they like. When I was in college, we could choose among basketball, volleyball, ballroom dancing, tennis, Ping-Pong, badminton, swimming and aerobics dance classes. I learned how to play volleyball, Ping-Pong, and aerobics dance in the first two years. Although there were no physical education classes in the last two years, I ran 2,000 meters every day.
For people in their late 20’s to 40’s, the prevalent activities used to be basketball, soccer, Ping-Pong, hiking, and badminton. As the economy of China develops, adults have started to show their interests in yoga, diving, and mountain climbing. More and more gyms have been built in the past decade.
People in their 50’s and 60’s are more likely to choose group dancing in public parks. Seniors are often retired in their late 50’s, so some people feel lonely and isolated after retirement. Public dancing is a great way to build a new connection or bond between seniors. Some people think public dancing is noisy and annoying because of the loud music, so it is still a controversial activity.
Generally, the Chinese spend less time on exercise than Americans do. I find that American parents encourage their children to participate in physical activities since their early childhood. This is an efficient way to improve physical health and teach kids the importance of competition. Parents in China, on the other hand, pay more attention to their children’s academic performance. In order to get into top schools, many students study more than 6-8 hours after school. This maybe the reason why 60% of Chinese high school students are near-sighted. I hope the future generations will realize the importance of health and spend more time on exercise.