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19 May 2022, 17:52

Celebrities lead national fitness drive

Photo: chinadaily.com.cn
Photo: chinadaily.com.cn

BEIJING, 19 May (BelTA - China Daily). - Actors and athletes are among key influencers promoting healthier lifestyles. Yan Dongjie reports.

Wang Zhen is overwhelmed that millions of people are watching her workout and weight-loss videos.

Last month, the 35-year-old from Shenyang, in the northeastern province of Liaoning, started posting videos of herself doing aerobics under the guidance of Liu Kenghung, China's current hottest livestream fitness guru, on Douyin, a popular short-video platform.

More than 560,000 people have liked her videos, and many said they have been encouraged to start working out as well.

"I feel more motivated because so many people are watching me," Wang said. Standing at 1.7 meters, she lost 2.5 kilograms in 16 days-falling from 77.6 kg to 75.1-while her body fat rate fell by 1.7 percentage points to 35.7 percent.

"It's not a big weight loss, but I look much tighter, I feel more energetic and have more strength, and I have even become happier," she said. "I look at myself every time I see a mirror. I like myself more."

Growing trend

Wang is one of the 67 million people in China who exercise at home via Liu's livestream.

Known as Will Liu in English, Liu has been a well-known singer and actor since the early 1990s, and his fame has been enhanced by the Douyin livestreams in which he coaches aerobics.

Last month, his livestream gained more than 60 million followers, suggesting that a trend is developing in which people are becoming enthusiastic about working out at home via livestreams and short videos.

According to a report about the fitness habits of young Chinese published by 36kr, a technology media platform, more than 40 percent of those born between 1995 and 2010 like to exercise at home.

"The latest wave of COVID-19 across the country has prevented people from accessing gyms. In addition, online health gurus are calling for healthy lifestyles to service people's needs during lockdowns, and that's where the 'exercise-at-home' economy has become popular," said Chen Guoqiang, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Sport.

He added that the concept of "nationwide fitness" was introduced in March, when the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the General Office of the State Council published a paper called "Opinions on Building a Higher-level Public Service System for National Fitness".

The paper emphasized the need to improve fitness nationwide and to establish a number of science-based platforms to spread the word.

Online platforms

According to Douyin, by December, it was hosting more than 60,000 fitness video bloggers. Meanwhile, last year, the number of fitness videos on the platform rose by 134 percent from 2020, while the number of trainers rose by 39 percent, attracting 208 percent more followers and boosting profits.

The platform started a "nationwide fitness campaign" in December, encouraging users to upload related videos and join online exercise sessions as the fitness craze swept the country.

Athletes, including Olympic gold medalist Gu Ailing, celebrities and numerous fitness experts joined the program by posting short videos or hosting livestreams to help netizens exercise at home.

Korean fitness blogger Jung Da-yeon and German fitness model Pamela Reif also upload short videos and do livestreams on Douyin, attracting more than 5.3 and 5.1 million followers, respectively.

Despite those efforts, Liu is without doubt the most popular online fitness guru. It's hard to imagine millions of people performing aerobics simultaneously, but that happens five times a week in Liu's livestreams. The peak came when 4.1 million people participated at the same time.

Most popular trainer

During each 90-minute livestream, most of them starting at 7:30 pm, people chat while dancing together to songs, type friends' names on the screen to check their attendance and offer encouragement to each other.

In between the four-minute songs, Liu and his wife, Wang Wanfei, talk to followers for several minutes to let them take a breather. Liu also demonstrates the movements and reminds the attendees to avoid incorrect postures, which could lead to injuries.

"Your heart rate remains at 120 to 150 beats per minute, which is good for losing weight and toning the body," he said.

"I'm happy to see so many people that never took exercise before have now started working out with my livestream because that means they have taken a step toward a healthier lifestyle."

However, as there are many new starters, Liu said livestream coaching needs to favor the majority and trainers should avoid movements that are too complex.

"I haven't yet led people in livestream exercises where they support themselves with their hands on the floor, because new starters might get injured if they do it incorrectly," he said.

He has been a fitness fanatic for more than 30 years, and has published several books, including A Fitness Book by Keng-hung in 2004, and Fitness Can Change Your Life in 2014.

The first book became popular because Liu was a star actor who had helped his celebrity friends share his fitness experience.

"I wanted to let people know that no matter how busy you are, you have time to work out," he said.

"In the book that was published eight years ago, I wanted to tell people that 'fitness can change your life', even though the publisher said the idea was too advanced and might be hard for people to understand.

"Fitness is not only about losing weight and building muscle-it's a lifestyle that makes you healthier, happier, have a great career and benefits your relationships with family and friends."

He said his current popularity is not something he achieved in several months. Instead, it's the result of many years of work.

"From introducing my family and friends to my fitness regime, to becoming an instructor on TV shows and making coaching videos and livestreams, I have been doing this enthusiastically," he said.

Liu believes that only people who love fitness and have the enthusiasm to share that experience can be good instructors. There are thousands of livestreamers and bloggers teaching exercise classes, "but checking whether he or she is enthusiastic when doing that is a good way to tell whether that person is a good choice to follow", he said.

"A good instructor knows how to organize the rhythm so people don't get bored or exhausted, but stay concentrated and get great results in toning their bodies."

To better help people exercise in his livestreams, Liu browses videos uploaded by participants under the name Liu Keng-hung Girls' Homework every day, so he understands individuals' fitness levels and the ways in which they need help.

"I give likes to some videos I see to encourage people to keep going, and I also point out if someone is doing a movement wrong. If I see that someone has improved, I comment to compliment them," he said.

Better lives

Wang, the fitness fan who posts videos of herself performing aerobic exercises at home every day, was even more encouraged when Liu replied to her video, saying her movements were proficient.

Online exchanges-not only with Liu, but also with other netizens who want to move toward healthier lifestyles-have contributed greatly to her improved fitness, she said.

"Most people still don't know healthy ways to work out or lose weight. Like other people, I tried weight-loss pills and other fitness products, but nothing worked," Wang said, adding that she felt she was "disgusting" when she had skin problems caused by sweat and excess underarm fat.

"There is no shortcut to health. It's more about dedication and a change of lifestyle. I'm happy to see that many people like me are stepping out toward healthier lives."

Liu said fitness is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but it's not everything. "Healthy eating is even more important, but in addition to food and fitness, we all need to experience a wide range of outdoor activities," he said.

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