Enthusiasm for sports grow among college students

Updated 2017-06-21 14:59:40 Xinhua

At 6 a.m. every day, students gather in the Zijing sportsground of Tsinghua University. After cheerfully greeting each other, they do warm-up exercises and then run in the rising sun.

They are members of Tsinghua's Morning Jogging Club, founded by Yin Ximing, a PhD student from Tsinghua's School of Economics and Management.

To stay fit and develop an early-to-rise, early-to-bed habit, Yin started jogging in the morning with some of his friends. They met some other Tsinghua students who are regular morning joggers and formed a loosely organized club in 2015.

Gradually the club drew more students. Some wanted to lose weight; some wanted to practice to meet the university's running standards; some ran to vent their emotions. Most joined the club out of curiosity. After a while, they enjoyed running for its own sake.

The club has no requirements for speed or distance, says Yin. No matter how slowly you run, other people run with you. This encourages participation.

"More importantly, running brings a sense of control of their body and life. The positive energy of sport drives study and life, and brings unexpected changes," Yin says.

The club now has more than 400 members.

Liu Bo, head of the Division of Sports Science and Physical Education at Tsinghua University, says the campus has around 40 sports clubs and associations like the morning jogging club.

Tsinghua has a long sporting tradition. Half a century ago, it boasted the slogan "Fighting to work at least 50 years healthily for the motherland" to demonstrate its emphasis on physical fitness. The new slogan "No sports, not Tsinghua" shows sports is integrated into university culture.

Tsinghua has a tradition of testing students in long-distance running - 3,000 meters for male students and 1,500 meters for females. From this year, undergraduates are also required to pass a swimming test before receiving their graduation certificate.

Liu believes physical education in universities is under threat from the Internet and the growth of entertainment options that are breaking the habit of physical exercise and bringing about declining physical health among students.

"Tsinghua data from 2003 to 2015 showed male students slowed by about 30 seconds in running 3,000 meters and female students slowed by 17 seconds in running 1,500 meters. Similar declines are seen in other physical tests such as long-jump and pull-ups," Liu says.

The government's Middle and Long-term Youth Development Plan (2016-25), released in April, aims to enhance physical health among young people, urging schools to "toughen the implementation of the National Students' Physical Health Standard and help develop the habit of life-long exercise."

Other Chinese universities are adopting mandatory measures in physical education. Xiamen University, in Fujian Province, Sun Yat-sen University and South China University of Technology, in Guangdong Province, have also listed swimming as a compulsory course.

Xi'an Jiaotong University, in Shaanxi Province, requires students to learn taichi, an ancient Chinese martial art.

Liu believes that in an exam-oriented system, physical education is often overlooked in primary and secondary schools. Once students reach university, it's hard to overcome physical inertia and embrace exercise. Tsinghua's mandatory measures have to some extent helped students develop better exercise habits, despite the initial complaints.

"The Tsinghua marathon has been held three times since 2015 and the number of entries grew from 2,200 in the first year to more than 3,000 this year. It is so popular that we have to draw entries now. It shows growing acceptance of running and physical exercise," Liu says.

Hu Kai, who won the 100 meters at the 2005 Summer Universiade, is one of Tsinghua's most outstanding student athletes. He has a doctorate and joined the staff of its Division of Sports Science and Physical Education.

Hu believes many Chinese see physical education only as a way of improving physical fitness and overlook its education function in character-building and spiritual shaping.

"In many of the world's leading universities, competitive sports, such as rugby, are very popular. Courage, hard work and teamwork in the game embody the value of physical education," Hu says.

Yin Ximing's morning jogging club is growing fast, and some members are developing new sports groups such as evening jogging clubs and a winter swimming association.

Hu wants more students participating in sports: "I hope more students like Yin Ximing will cultivate a passion for sports and develop life-long exercise habits."

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