From the Stretch-A-Leg Blog

Public Exercise in Beijing

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While young people rush into the subway or buses to get to work or school, retirees are already in the park for their morning exercises. Stretching and jogging, dancing and singing, or just leisurely playing a few hands of cards, if it needs practicing it can be practiced at a public park in Beijing. Rise early and experience the exercise of the elderly.

Rise and shine

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In order to catch the excitement of the morning at parks in Beijing, make sure you arrive there before 7:30 in the morning. At this point the parks will still be void of tourists but there will be plenty of exercising action going on. Some of the retirees will stay there just for the morning while others will pop back home for lunch and then go back to the park again.

Heavenly Exercise

In Beijing there are many parks that are being used but the hot spot has to be Temple of Heaven. Occupying an area of 273 hectares, it is three times the area of the Forbidden City. Due to its size it's a great place to watch a myriad of different activities going on. It was built in 1420 for emperors to worship heaven. In 1918 it was first opened for the public as a park and has stayed a popular morning exercise destination ever since.

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Another reason why the Temple of Heaven park is such a great spot for morning exercise is the fact that it is filled with thousands of hundred-year-old Cypresses. This creates a quiet, reclusive environment and an ideal resort for the locals to do their morning exercise.

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Residents living near the Temple of Heaven enjoy many activities here, such as singing, dancing, playing chess or cards, flying kites, and many other things. On a visit make sure you bring a camera and a notepad to keep track of the hundreds of things you will see.

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You may also find some people stretching their leg muscles against the wall or at the public exercise equipment. A common Chinese belief is that “筋长一寸,寿长十年”, meaning that you can live ten years longer if your tendons grow an inch longer. Of course, stretching also helps relaxing your muscles, so that you are less likely to be injured. Being flexible also helps to reduce injuries, as your body is able to deal with many positions, including those that seem very awkward. In a time and age where elderly are more prone to have serious injuries when they fall down, being able to avoid such a thing may actually help a lot. 

Exercise with an amazing view

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Jingshan Park (sometimes known as Coal Hill) is another popular place for retirees and their friends to hang out and do morning exercises. Jingshan Park is at the north gate of the Forbidden City. The park features a hill at the center which provides an amazing bird-eye view of the whole Forbidden City. Climbing the hill is a popular morning activity for many locals. Climb a little and be rewarded with a spectacular view of the sun rising over the Forbidden City. 

If you want to you can join in on these activities and experience a nice and active local start to your day. 

 Can I kick it?

Yes, you can. Jianzi (毽子) is a traditional Asian shuttlecock game, which originated in ancient China in the Han dynasty. It’s also called “Chinese hacky sack”, typically has four feathers fixed into a rubber sole or plastic discs. Gameplay is similar to football keepie uppies where the goal is to keep the ball, or in this case the jianzi, from touching the floor.

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During play, various parts of the body (except for the hands) are used to keep the shuttlecock from touching the ground. It is primarily hit using parts of the leg, especially the feet.

Jianzi can can involve as few as two people but for team play there are usually three players on a field somewhat smaller than a badminton court. The net height is somewhere between a tennis net and a badminton net. Good qualities for playing jianzi are fast coordination and it helps to be bendy as you will find you need a lot of awkward positions to save the ball from hitting the floor.

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Jianzi are also sold in the street at various places, usually close to parks where you would actually use it, but you can also try sports sections in supermarkets. Using the insides of your feet you can get used to the feel of the jianzi and do a few keepie uppies on your own. Can you keep it up 50 times?

To the parks - and beyond!

Feel like having a jog around the Temple of Heaven or watching the early morning sun bounce off the golden roofs of the Forbidden City? Stretch-A-Leg's expert guides can help you explore local Beijing.

Pick a date and get your tour confirmed before we're fully booked. Start building your itinerary here.

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