Passion for sports fuels seniors in China

Grandma Chen Jifang, 68, from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in China as her newfound love of working out has made national headlines.
Grandma Chen Jifang, 68, from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in China as her newfound love of working out has made national headlines.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LANZHOU (China) • Peng Xiaoling, a 62-year-old marathoner in Lanzhou, capital of north-west China's Gansu Province, crossed the finish line with her arms high up, celebrating victory.

She finished her 25th marathon with a time of 4hr 23min.

Although slower than her personal best, she was satisfied with this result as she was the oldest athlete in the amateur group.

Statistics show that China had more than 250 million people aged 60 and older by the end of last year.

As living conditions improved, seniors are now paying more attention to health management.

And taking part in sports has become a popular choice in the pursuit of physical fitness and life enrichment.

"Seniors are much more enthusiastic about sports than the young, due to their flexible time schedules and urgent health demands," said Madam Peng. "It is obvious that the number of elderly marathoners is increasing in recent years and most of them are amateurs running for health and fun."

She ran her first marathon in 1988, making her popular in sporting circles in Lanzhou. As captain of a local running team, she has seen improvements in the sports industry.

"More indoor gyms and sports centres are open to the public for free. With more professional installations and facilities, we have more choices for sports," she says.

In a yoga club, 65-year-old Cui Yunqi flung herself into a handstand on a yellow hammock under her yoga instructor's guidance.

This new type of yoga, called aerial yoga, in which practitioners hang from a hammock suspended from the ceiling, is popular worldwide.

She was the only participant older than 40 in the class and one of the best learners.

"I enjoy doing yoga. It is challenging and fulfilling," she says. "Thanks to it, I've made new friends and experienced new things. It has made me feel young again."

After class, she posted a picture of her practising yoga on social media and received the thumbs-up from her family in minutes. Instantly, she cheered up like a kid.

Recently, short videos of older people engaging in sports in city parks have sparked discussion in China.

Netizens have applauded some for their graceful movements on the parallel bars and their positive attitude towards life.

"Life is colourful and we can make it count," said marathoner Peng.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2020, with the headline 'Passion for sports fuels seniors in China'. Print Edition | Subscribe