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Motivating the masses to shape up

China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-08 09:21
More than 18,000 athletes take part in a half marathon in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu province on April 15, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

From marathon mania to the square dance craze, more and more Chinese are being bitten by the exercise bug.

Now China is ramping up the intensity in its bid to energize the nation.

As part of today's 10th National Fitness Day celebrations, a series of new measures are being rolled out to promote sports participation among the public.

Since 2009, National Fitness Day has been held annually on Aug 8, commemorating the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

To further promote the active way of life nationwide, the General Administration of Sport of China on Tuesday launched a program to select 50 cities and 100 counties as "model hosts" for fitness and exercise.

The selection, opens for bids until Sept 30, will assess candidates in eight key areas - including policy support, funding, mass fitness guidance and infrastructure.

Cities and counties that pass an initial evaluation phase and a later public review will be classed as "national model hosts of mass fitness activities" and be provided with annual subsidies, according to the mass sports department of the GASC.

"To be named a national model in promoting mass fitness will inspire greater efforts from local governments and sports authorities to offer better facilities and services for the public to exercise," said Lang Wei, director of the department.

The promotion of sports participation will count in the annual assessment of local officials' performances, Lang added.

Among the assessment criteria are that any new community in a model city or county should guarantee at least one square meter of outdoor exercising ground for every three residents, while a small-scale training center should be no further away than a 15-minute walk.

The GASC on Tuesday also introduced a set of 18 indoor exercise routines tailor made for office workers by the China Institute of Sport Science, which will be promoted through fitness app Keep.

The routines feature simple techniques of mild intensity that can be performed in confined spaces.

"It targets those who have to work long hours in the office and helps relax and strengthen muscles and joints on the neck, lower back and legs," said Yan Qi, a kinesiology researcher with the institute.

Keep subscribers can watch video demonstrations of the routines performed by Olympic champion diver Lin Yue, judo world champion Yang Xiuli and Olympic gold medalist speed skater Li Jianrou.

"A lot of the routines are actually used every day by professional athletes in warm-ups and rehabilitation," said Yang, winner of the women's 78kg category at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"They are easy to do in short breaks and take up little space."

Meanwhile, the GASC has revealed it has been working with the finance, urban development and education ministries to ensure that State-owned stadiums, training bases and school infrastructures are open to the public more often.

Citing a study by Shanghai University of Sport, the GASC stressed that the current distribution of governmental subsidies and evaluation system are not encouraging enough for owners to open their venues for public use.

"Rather than opening the doors to exercisers and event organizers, some of the venue operators would like to keep their facilities sitting idle because of the high operational cost," Qiu Ru, deputy director of the GASC's mass sports department.

"Therefore, to help cover the expense while making incentive policies, such as highlighting the public usage rate as a key factor in allocating new funding, should be priorities," she said.

Since 2014, the government has subsidized venues run by sports bureaus and State-owned training centers to ensure they remain open to the public.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the central government offered subsidies totaling 930 million yuan ($136 million) in 2017 to support 1,257 sports venues' mass fitness functions.

Since 2014, a total of 3.5 billion yuan has been spent.

The annual subsidy allocation has mainly depended on a venue's size and capacity, but beginning next year the distribution will be based on the number of people using the facilities and the frequency of mass sporting events that the venue hosts.

Feedback from surrounding communities will also be a factor, according to the GASC.

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