POSTED: August 20 2019
Chinese lessons on health and well-being?

Chinese lessons on health and well-being?

advo’s Colin Boxall, currently working from China has written about differences between UK and Chinese healthcare delivery and whether lessons could be learned. In a follow-up article he takes a look at different attitudes to health and well-being.

On walking around any city, town or village in China one thing stands out, the number of restaurants and availability of street food. Eating out is not the special occasion typically in the UK, but it seems a national obsession. Friends and family or business partners and contacts are constantly inviting each other to eat out. The different types of food outlets are staggering and the cost remarkably cheap compared to the UK. Just last night six of us went to a top restaurant, the cost 524 Yuan, about £60. Given the eating obsession you would think the streets would be filled with obsess people, but they are not. Yes, you see overweight people, but compared to the UK relatively few and never seen anyone morbidly obsess.

I believe one of the main reasons is an attitude towards health and fitness. From what I have seen this, alongside eating out, it also seems to be a national obsession.


“The society here is not without its problems, such as widespread acceptance of smoking, but the mindset of the people seems to be more geared towards keeping a healthy body.”


In the UK some of us may go to the gym or get together at weekends or the odd weekday to participate in organised sports events, but too many of us just go home after work and watch TV.

In the evenings here in China, again in any city, town or village, if you visit open places you find them packed with people coming together in a staggeringly wide number of healthy activities and social events.

In Shenyang where I am currently living there seems to be two main areas I have found, although there almost certainly will be others.

The most local is a wide-open space well maintained and lit attractively at night. Around 7pm each night groups of dancers, marchers, walkers, roller-skaters, skateboarders and many others come together. It’s a spectacular sight.

Organised dance troop in Shenyang, sponsored by local jewellery shop. 

The dancers, often in groups over 50 in number, wear similar brightly coloured uniforms, sponsored by local businesses, run through rehearsed routines to loud modern or traditional music. Unlike the UK people walking by join in. There is not the fear of looking silly, all are there to enjoy the evening and at the same time get some exercise.

Dancers outside thew train station in Hailar, Inner Mongolia

It’s not just the older generation but younger too. Fast and furious routines to western music are to be found. One of the most popular seems to be displays of salsa dancing, it’s all there to see and join in.

The most impressive I have seen are the marching clubs. In Shenyang there is an Emperor’s  tomb. It has a long driveway that has been turned into a beautiful park. In the evening groups joint together and march up and down with military precision playing load marching music following a flag carrier with people visiting joining in and marching behind.  It is an amazing sight when they all pass a statue of the emperor and shouting out a salute as they pass. Again at the end of columns people join in and march along.

Video of Marching Club – Shenyang

The commitment to general public wellbeing is evident with parks and open spaces with simple gym equipment available that always seems to being used.

Tai-chi – outside the station in Hailar, Inner Mongolia

Dancers at the night market, Hailar, Inner Mongolia

The society here is not without its problems, such as widespread acceptance of smoking, but the mindset of the people seems to be more geared towards keeping a healthy body. Perhaps in the UK we should try and shed some of our inhibitions and come together more in keeping fit.