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China Daily Global / 2021-08 / 19 / Page005

Blueprint promotes public fitness

By XU WEI | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-08-19 00:00

New measures aim to boost participation in exercise, sports

The central government has unveiled a new five-year blueprint to enable greater public participation in physical exercise, rolling out measures to increase the number of sports facilities, promote fitness activities at the grassroots level and offer more guidance to sports participants.

Analysts said the new set of measures will help solve bottlenecks that kept the public from engaging in such activities, adding that the blueprint is of milestone significance in charting the course of the nation's sports development for the new era.

The plan to promote public fitness released by the State Council, China's Cabinet, on Aug 3, has set a target of increasing the percentage of China's population who take part in physical exercise on a regular basis from 37.2 percent at the end of 2020 to 38.5 percent by 2025.

It also aims to increase the number of public fitness facilities in counties, districts, townships, villages and communities, enabling residents to have access to such facilities within 15 minutes of commuting.

To achieve this, the plan pledges to further increase the amount of land that will be made available for exercise and introduce measures to use both idle land in urban areas and rental land in order to plan and develop facilities that are close to communities.

The nation will build or renovate over 2,000 sports parks, public fitness centers and gymnasiums, equipping over 5,000 townships with fitness facilities, according to the plan. It will also develop a number of ice rinks and use digital technology to upgrade more than 1,000 stadiums.

"Participation in fitness activities is vital to public health and an important way to raise the level of fitness among the people. It will also contribute to the Health China Initiative and help develop the nation into a sports power," said Cao Keqiang, a professor with the School of Economics and Management at the Shanghai University of Sport.

According to a survey result released by the General Administration of Sport in November, there were over 3.54 million sports grounds covering 2.92 billion square meters nationwide as of 2019. The nation's per capita area in terms of sporting grounds reached 2.08 square meters.

Cao said China has witnessed a rapid spike in the development of sports facilities in recent years, and that growth could continue over the next five years.

He also said a major highlight of the policy document is that it prioritizes efforts to bring more sports events to the grassroots level, and such efforts will allow even more people to participate in fitness activities and sports tournaments.

An official with the General Administration of Sport said in an online statement that the latest blueprint emphasized new policy measures, including enabling the construction of more stadiums to better meet public demand and promoting the development of soccer at the county level.

To offer more guidance to the public, the document has also lowered the job requirements for fitness coaches, with measures to further boost the number of professionals and improve their level of services, the official said.

To invigorate the vitality of nongovernmental sports organizations, the plan said support in terms of land availability, coaches, training and official assessments will be extended to high-caliber public fitness organizations devoted to soccer, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, badminton, cycling and running.

The document also underlined the importance of promoting fitness activities among key groups, including the young and the elderly, introducing measures targeting problems such as myopia and obesity among children.

To ensure the fitness level of schoolchildren, the blueprint stressed the need to ensure that students can exercise for at least one hour both in school and off campus, with steps to integrate and refine sporting events for children.

Efforts will be made to make fitness facilities more adapted to seniors and to organize special competitions for them, it said, adding that fitness activities will also be promoted among farmers and women.

Zheng Zhiqiang, a professor of sports industry and governance at Jimei University in Xiamen, Fujian province, said the number of people involved in fitness activities has increased in recent years, which means the prevention of sports-related injuries and the alleviation of chronic diseases through sports intervention are more important than ever.

He said the alignment between public fitness, competitive sports, school sports and the sports sector has also become even more critical.

Zheng also emphasized the need for greater participation from women and the disabled.

"Judging from international experience, the involvement of women in fitness activities will have greater influence over a family than that of men, and sports are important channels for the disabled to improve their quality of life and work," he said.

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