Jogging for Jintao


by Jennifer Holder

BEIJING, CHINA—“It’s great.” “It’s terrible.” “I love it.” “I hate it.” “It’s good for the body.” “I’d rather play basketball or study.” “It’s affecting my appetite—I can’t eat after.” “It’s affecting my appetite—I eat a lot after.”

These are a few of the remarks made by students about the nationwide winter exercise program launched by China’s Ministry of Education. As of October, all students in the fourth grade level and above have been required to participate daily in long-distance running. Teachers are highly encouraged to run with their students.

The vast majority of the students I observed enjoy the exercise. As soon as the bell rings, the students eagerly organize themselves according to their classes. When the team leader blows the whistle signaling the start of the class, the students smile and immediately start jogging to the rhythmic music that is played loudly over the public address system. Students jog at a moderate pace, most talking and laughing as they run; the camaraderie between students and teachers is clearly evident.

The distance, which can be slightly modified by individual schools, varies from one kilometer for elementary school students to 1.5 kilometers for junior high students and two kilometers for senior high and college students. School officials are highly supportive of the program, which they hope will not only improve health, but also build team spirit.

Published on 12/3/08. Photo by Jennifer Holder.