To promote physical fitness nationwide, the State Physical Culture Administration has adopted many measures in the hope that more people will engage in fitness activities as a voluntary part of their daily routine under a Nationwide Physical Fitness Program established in 1995 that aims to improve the health and overall physical condition of the general population. With an emphasis on young people and children, this program encourages everyone to engage in at least one sport activity daily, learn at least two ways of keeping fit and have a health examination every year. It requires that physical culture departments at all levels study people's varied choices of time, types and ways of fitness activities, and create more popular fitness programs in line with what people want. Chinese people enjoy activities like hiking, swimming, skiing and other winter sports, badminton, volleyball, gymnastics, Taijiquan (also known as shadow boxing) and other forms of martial arts, and table tennis. They are avid cyclists and bicycling remains the main mode of travel for many Chinese. Now new activities also are becoming popular, especially among young people, such as rock climbing, bowling, skateboarding, and golf.
By the end of 2003, the State Physical Culture Administration had appropriated 1 billion yuan to carry out the Nationwide Physical Fitness Program. Since 2001, it has set aside the proceeds from sports lottery as pilot funds, and experimented to build "National Physical Fitness Centers from the China Sports Lottery" in 31 large- and medium-sized cities throughout the country, such as Dalian, Beijing and Changchun. Some of these centers have been established. Meanwhile, proceeds from the sports lottery worth some 196 million yuan were used to construct public sporting facilities in China's less-developed western areas and the Three Gorges region of the Yangtze River.
According to the goals set in the National Physical Fitness Program, by 2005, 37 percent of China's total population will participate in physical exercises regularly. In municipalities directly under the Central Government and economically developed provinces, all communities in the capital cities, 80 percent of communities in other cities and 25 percent of rural residents shall have access to public health-building facilities. In provincial capitals of the western regions, other cities and rural areas, the rate will be 80, 60 and 15 percent respectively. There will be 350,000 popular sports instructors across China. Sports instruction centers will be built in more than 70 percent of urban communities, the same amount of counties and over half towns and townships. Around 3,000 sports clubs for children shall be established with the help of proceeds from sports lottery. By 2010, the goal is to have 40 percent of the population exercising regularly.
The 2001 national survey on physical fitness was the largest such survey since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949. The national health survey extended over three years and covered 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government. The survey showed that Chinese people are living longer. Between 1990 and 2002 the average life expectancy of a Chinese person increased by 3.25 years, reaching 71.8 years, somewhere near the level of moderately developed countries. Of course, many Chinese live much longer than the average, and China can claim the oldest living person in the world: On June 18, 2002, a Chinese woman, Du Pinhua, of Leshan, Sichuan Province, earned her place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's oldest person. She is now 117. The survey also showed that the level of growth of children and teenagers in China's rural areas has increased greatly and that the average rate of increase of every index of their body surpassed that of children of the same age group in cities.
But the survey also revealed some worrying information. The physical fitness of Chinese citizens in a more affluent society worsens considerably after they turn 40, and obesity is common among adults and is getting to be a problem among young people. The health condition of women in the countryside is far from satisfactory.
Under the Nationwide Physical Fitness Program outdoor fitness centers have been installed in urban communities in public parks, squares, schoolyards and other convenient locations. These fitness centers are widely enjoyed by people of all ages. The State Physical Culture Administration also sponsors an annual "nationwide fitness awareness week."
The Nationwide Physical Fitness Program has set a goal of getting some 37 percent of China's population into a habit of regular physical exercise by 2005 and some 40 percent by 2010. Signs are that nationwide attention to fitness is helping to change awareness and lifestyles. In some big and medium cities, spending money for the sake of good health has become trendy among people who want to raise the quality of their life. There are about 616,000 gymnasiums and stadiums across China, most of them open and widely used by the general public.