The story that I have to share is one of the most incredible stories I have experienced in my travels. In Beijing, there is a place called the Temple of Heaven. It is an ancient temple that thousands of tourists visit, and it’s located in a park that is the size of Central Park in New York. It is huge.
It would take days to cover all the interesting places to see and gardens to visit at this site. This was my fifth time back, and I am still making new discoveries.
When you go to visit this sacred temple, you are greeted by the most incredible sight. There are not hundreds of seniors out exercising—there are thousands!
When I came last year, I said that I wanted to come back and have some time to spend discovering all of the activities that the senior Chinese people are participating in to keep them fit and young. I have even thought it would be interesting to come to Beijing for a month and go and play in the park with all the fit and ready people that come to play and exercise every day.
For the most part, everything is done in groups or along with someone just like it was at recess when I was in grade school. Today I spent 5 hours walking, stopping to play, and watching all the activities that go on between 6 am and noon. Here is just a sample of what you will see.
- Dancing with partners as well as group and theme dancing
- Tai Chi Ball (a game played with a racquet and a ball that is weighted with sand)
- Ribbon Twirling (long ribbons are used and kept circling in patterns)
- Group Singing (usually done in small groups of 30 to 40)
- Musical Band (I saw more than 70 people playing their small instruments together)
- Small groups or individuals playing their instruments in the park
- Groups playing Chinese games
The thing that impressed me the most was they all seemed to be there because it was the place to be. Everyone was so happy to be there having fun with their friends. If I could not have seen their ages, I would have thought that I was at an elementary school watching kids play—and loving it!
Nowadays, when I go to the gym, I usually go to work out—not to socialize during my workout. The machines and activities are not set up to let us participate as well as socialize. But here, things are set up to achieve both at the same time, and the participants seem to love every minute.
Although I do not speak a word of Chinese, and they do not speak a word of English, we both used the international languages of smiling and gestures. As I played and exercised with them, one message came through loud and clear: If I could just get my thighs thinner, I could move a lot better!
Rarely do you see a Chinese person that has one extra pound. They are a nation of the health conscious. The one area in the health realm that the Chinese do not seem to get is smoking. There is a lot of smoking. In the park, I did not see smoking—just people having a great time and enjoying every minute.
If you want to go and enjoy recess again like we used to as kids, take a trip to Beijing and be sure to spend a lot of time at the Temple of Heaven. It has been created for both the body and the soul.