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Volunteer programs help nation shape up for fitter future

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-06-29 10:19
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Budding young athletes get to grips with a sports climbing wall. Across the nation, improvements in fitness facilities are encouraging people of all age groups to exercise. ZHU HAIPENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

With exercise facilities, services and grassroots events improving nationwide, more and more Chinese people have been embracing fitness as a lifestyle choice in recent years.

Right across the country, there is no shortage of evidence to illustrate how the mass fitness initiative has improved the population's quality of life.

To highlight these achievements, the mass sports department of the General Administration of Sport of China is officially compiling 116 examples of the mass fitness voluntary service program into a project library.

The project, which features examples selected from 22 provinces and municipalities, will be made available to the public in multiple ways to further facilitate the growth of sports and fitness.

One example is the Chinese Football Association's voluntary fitness and soccer promotion activity, called "Dream China", which kicked off in 2018. A series of soccer carnivals, charity tournaments and themed activities for teenagers have been staged in various cities in recent years.

In 2021, the program's activities were held in 10 provinces, with the participation of 13,689 people. According to the CFA, the aim of the activities is to let more people, especially the younger generation, learn the spirit of soccer, encourage them to chase their dreams on the pitch, and, most importantly, make sports an integral part of their lives.

At the Guangdong stop of the CFA's program last year, a group of middle-school students got to spend time with professional soccer players and industry experts. The pupils also had the chance to train with the pros.

Meanwhile, in Zhejiang province, Ningbo Mass Fitness Instruction Center has conducted a voluntary fitness program entitled "One sport skill for one person" since 2018. The center offers local residents in Ningbo training programs for 31 sports, including basketball, swimming and soccer.

In 2018 and 2019, the Ningbo program staged a total of 895 training sessions. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online training sessions were added in 2020, when another 503 training sessions were held.

Persons with disabilities are among those to benefit from these voluntary fitness programs.

One such program, which is themed "Being a warm companion to persons with disabilities", has operated in Beijing since 2016. Each weekend, volunteers accompany persons with disabilities one on one to enjoy brisk 5-kilometer walks.

For those who need to use wheelchairs, the volunteers act as guides and keep them safe throughout the entire process.

Special sports meets have also been staged for persons with disabilities since 2017. Through sports like tug of war and rope skipping, the aim is to let persons with disabilities feel the fun of keeping fit and improve their health and well-being along the way.

"In all these sports and fitness activities, we assign one volunteer to each person with disability, so that the volunteer can be totally familiar with the person and understand their needs," said Tan Jian, who is in charge of the program.

"Each month we have two training sessions for the volunteers, including how to operate wheelchairs and canes for visually impaired people.

"The reason why we organize such activities is to give people with disabilities more opportunities to enjoy sports. It also helps them integrate better in society. Through sports, they can gain more confidence."

According to Tan, most volunteers in the program are office workers, teachers and doctors in Beijing. They have served people with disabilities in the fitness programs over 45,000 times, accounting for over 20,000 hours through the years.

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