Get ready for your morning exercise

Morning exercise in Chaoyang District (Mirror)

Suspended in 2007 because of preparations for the Beijing Olympic Games, on-the-job calisthenics returns to Beijing this month. Starting next Monday, four million workers in the city will resume exercising for 8 minutes a day to the accompaniment of rousing music and directions played over a loudspeaker.

Every day at 10 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon, Radio Exercise Set #8 will be broadcast on FM102.5. The Beijing News writes:

This means that the sight of Beijing workers doing collective exercises to the loudspeaker will return to the capital.

The announcer for the 8th set is reportedly Zhang Zhonglin, the former captain and head coach of the Beijing gymnastics team, whose voice is familiar to people born in the 80s. When they were in school, Set #6 was in use, for which Zhang served as announcer.

The broadcast of radio exercises had been halted in 2007 to make way for Olympic programming. In 2009, the Beijing government issued a "Healthy Beijingers," a ten-year action plan for improving the city's overall health. It promoted exercise during or before working hours and stipulated that every worker ought to engage in physical activity once a day.

"Radio exercises have always been the primary mode of exercise during working hours at enterprises and work units," said Yu Junsheng, vice-hair of the city's trade union. He explained that the first set of exercises was released in 1951, and a new set was issued every five or ten years thereafter.

Yu said that in addition to radio exercises, the trade union would also promote other forms of work-time exercises to be supplemented according to industry and location. These currently include mixed gymnastics, double-ring dancing, yoga, white-collar seated taiji, and other exercises.

In the future, traditional athletic activities such as diabolo spinning, shuttlecock, and baton twirling may be incorporated into work-time exercise.

Yu said that the results of the exercise promotion "have been better in government agencies than in enterprises, and better in state-owned enterprises than in other companies." The continued expansion of labor unions into private enterprise may help the promotion of on-the-job exercise.

Yu's "five to ten years" is not entirely accurate. According to a sidebar in the paper, the first set was released on December 1, 1951; the second in 1954, the third in 1957, the fourth in 1963, the fifth (with color pictures) in 1971, and the sixth in 1981. The seventh set, which came in two versions, was not released until 2000.

The eighth set was released in 2007. Cong Liming, an 80-year-old athletics department staffer who worked on the editing and publication of the eight sets, said that Beijing had released another ten industry-specific sets in the 1960s that included special exercises targeted at textile workers, steelworkers, and sales clerks, among other professions.

According to the evening Mirror, the municipal labor union has said that the exercises are "required" at government work units. Because many workers may not remember the specific steps in Set #8, the union has produced educational posters and DVDs and has recruited athletics instructors to train representatives, who will then pass their knowledge on to the workforce.

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