Fitness is taken very seriously within China. A government endorsed health program is attributed with increasing the average life expectancy of China's population by 3.25 years to 71.8 years.
Athletics are practiced from a casual to professional level in Beijing. There are a variety of sports facilities throughout the city with clubs for group play. There are also several traditional games that will be played in tea gardens, public parks, or on the street. These may include: Go (weiqi), Chinese chess (xiangqi), and Mahjong (majiang). Along with keeping fit, practicing sports as a participant or fan can introduce an expat to new groups of people and possible friends.
An estimated 300 million Chinese people use bicycles as transport, but it is also an excellent source of enjoyment and exercise. Bikes are inexpensive to purchase, and rental agencies can be found anywhere in the city. Note: with increased car traffic inexperienced riders should practice before hitting the streets.
Just outside of the urbane landscape, China's natural beauty can be enjoyed in it's mountains, waterfalls, caverns, and countryside. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is called "the roof of the world" and is one of the world's most famous mountaineering destinations. No permit is required for hiking, although a trekking permit may be compulsory for remote areas or for some mountain climbs. The China National Tourist Office can inform hikers of known routes an necessary gear.
The art of Tai Chi is practiced throughout the city. Tai Chi consists of a series of linked movements performed in a slow relaxed manner using the entire body while focusing the mind. Walking around Beijing, you can observe groups of all ages practicing quietly and new comers are welcome.
Known as other table tennis in some parts of the world, ping pong is an event China has excelled in. The country has proved to be overwhelming dominant, with Ma Long one of the highest-ranked Chinese table tennis players, and the highest-ranked player in the world. Deng Yaping is regarded by many as one of the greatest table tennis player of all time. Table tennis is also a popular amateur recreational sport with an estimated 300 million players.
The sport has even played a role in China's international relations. In April 1972, the US table tennis team were invited to visit China in an event later called "Ping Pong Diplomacy".
Golf is becoming increasingly popular with multiple greens just outside the city. It is a hobby most commonly found among wealthy Chinese. The Pearl River Delta area in particular has seen a boom in golf courses and country clubs. Green fees are usually around 500 RMB for weekdays and 800 RMB on weekends. Professional events occasionally come to town.
Public pools are popular during the hot days of summer. Most pools cost 30 RMB for adults. Many hotels have superior swimming pools, but may be restricted to hotel residents or members. Enquire directly to find out.
Indoor and outdoor tennis courts are available throughout the city. Most facilities are tied to clubs and it may be necessary to become a member to use them.
There are several professional sports teams based in Beijing. Prior to the 1990s, sports in China were completely government-funded. This began to change in 1994 when Chinese football became the first sport to become professionalized. Basketball, volleyball, ping pong and weiqi have followed their lead. Some Chinese athletes now join foreign professional leagues, such as basketball star Yao Ming performing in the NBA.
Many fitness centers are linked to hotels and may be only open for guests. Others may allow for use with a membership fee. Machines, classes, and weight-lifting equipment is almost always supplied. Some gyms also offer badminton, table tennis, tennis courts, basketball courts, swimming pool and squash courts.
A continued list of gyms can be found here.
Beijing was the host for the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2008 Summer Paralympics which brought worldwide attention, not all of it good. Among the issues: human rights violations, oppressive censorship, and the relocation of roughly 350,000 people for the construction of the new Beijing National Stadium. However, the event went fairly smoothly with 43 new world records and 132 new Olympic records. An unprecedented 86 countries won at least one medal during the Games. Chinese athletes won the most gold medals, with 51.
The China Openis an annual tennis championship held in Beijing. The men's singles and doubles events were first held in 1993. In 2006, the China Open became the first tournament outside of the United States to utilize the Hawk-Eye system in match play. Michael Chang and Novak Djokovic are the only men to have won the singles competition more than once, though Chang holds the record for both total and consecutive wins with three titles. In doubles, the Bryan Brothers are the only doubles pair to have won consecutive titles.
The National Stadium
Also known as the Bird's Nest in Chaoyang District, this new major landmark was built for the 2008 Olympics. The impressive stadium was a symbol for the Games.
Capital Indoor Stadium (CIS)
One of the stadiums renovated for the Beijing Olympics, it was originally built in 1968. It is an 18,000 seat stadium and has been used for table tennis, badminton, volleyball, basketball, skating rink, and gymnastics competitions.
Gongren Tiyuchang is often called Gongti or Gong Ti. It is a multi-purpose stadium in the Chaoyang District of north-eastern Beijing, China. It is mostly used for football matches. It is one of the Ten Great Buildings constructed in 1959 for the 10th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.
This was the oldest stadium in Beijing until the early period of liberation. It was built on the original address of Xiannongtan (Altar of Agriculture) in the year 1936. It is one of the largest public place in Beijing and has hosted large scale ceremonies like Sports Assemble of Beijing and Workers's Sports Day.