information for global expats

Fitness and Sport for Expats in China

Submitted: August 2013

The fitness industry in China is fast-growing, with the State Physical Culture Administration adopting several measures in an effort to promote nationwide fitness such as the Nationwide Fitness Program. Chinese people enjoy sporting activities like hiking, water sports, badminton, volleyball, gymnastics, table tennis and martial arts, with many other activities becoming increasingly popular, both Chinese and Western.

China has facilities which cater to many sporting activities and events which are popular in the Western world, ranging from yoga or horseback riding to cricket and football. Popular participant and spectator sports in China with strong western influence include:

  • Football (Soccer) – this is a well-supported sport in China as huge crowds usually gather to cheer for teams such as Manchester United during international events, making it the most watched television sport in China despite the lack of success of the national team. It remains one of the most popular amateur sports for recreation, closely rivalled by basketball, with many school facilities being rented for weekend use by amateur clubs.
  • Cricket – this option is becoming increasingly popular especially due to the Coca-Cola Shanghai Cricket Sixes. This tournament feature both local and international players of both genders. This is common among expats, as they normally form teams and play alongside those in China.
  • Golf – at the amateur level, this is regarded as one of the top recreational activities among businesspeople and officials who can access these facilities. Such golf greens are not always accessible by the general public in mainland China.
  • Tennis – as opposed to table tennis, this is a growing recreational sport in China, although access to tennis courts may be limited in densely populated urban areas. This sport, especially with female players, has seen success at the amateur and international level and as such is given attention by local sport stations.

If you are interested in joining a particular amateur sport club, the following link may prove useful in providing information on the many sporting clubs available in Beijing and how to go about joining them. -  https://www.beijingwelcome.com/beijing_information/Html/10367.aspx

In addition, many activities are available which can be done during leisure due to China’s extensive rural areas and developed cities, making both outdoor and indoor activities available. Common activities include:

  • Cycling and Biking – these activities are very popular and provide a good means of exploring the countryside. There is also competitive road cycling, as well as regular racing for all rider levels. There are numerous cycling clubs throughout the country, such as the Beijing Peleton (https://beijing.mongoliaprocycling.com/), which are open to foreign cyclists.
  • Hiking and Walking – this is becoming increasingly popular with numerous hiking clubs throughout town such as Beijing Hikers (https://www.beijinghikers.com/) which can provide you with resources such as maps. There are many popular trails such as Guizhou, The Great Wall and trails to view Mount Everest.
  • Skiing – this activity has grown popular throughout many of the larger cities in China. Though heavily dependent on artificial snow, many facilities and equipment are available, even for those who want to learn. For more popular locations throughout Beijing, please use the following link. -  https://www.tour-beijing.com/ski/ski_resorts.php

If you are considering enrolment at a fitness centre (gym), China has about 3,000 health clubs, most of which are commercial, with around 3 million members. Most of these centres are located within 1st and 2nd tier, with Beijing and Shanghai having far more than other cities. However, there has been recent growth in the number of centres in western China in accordance with the ‘Go West’ policy. The two largest gym chains in China are Tera Wellness, which is based in Shanghai, and Hosa Fitness, which is based in Beijing. Many international gyms have also penetrated China’s market such as Bally and Powerhouse Gyms, California Fitness and Fitness First. Each of these gyms has its specific costs, with annual membership fees vary depending on several factors; on average you can expect to pay an amount  anywhere between US$ 91 to US $763.
For a comprehensive list of gym option, the following links may prove useful:

Beijing- https://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/listings/sports/gyms/

Shanghai - https://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/sports/gyms/



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