Make Exercise a Law? It's Gym Class All Over Again

Emily Abbate
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In a move that promises to give one-time nerds, artists, and deadheads everywhere sweaty flashbacks to high school gym class, some governments are considering making exercise a law.

The only good thing about this news is that the government in question is in a communist country, and the chances of it happening here in the Land of the Whopper are slim.

But after a three-year break, Beijing authorities are beginning to once again command their workers to get active. Radios in workplaces throughout the capital are blasting twice a day, every day at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and workers gather for organized calisthenics.

I remember my high school days. I'd start daydreaming when I thought about the excitement of getting my driver's license, the indecisive mentality of what to wear for picture day, and the huge controversy when the school administration decided to get rid of vending machines and French fries.

And holy hell, I remember gym class.

Getting out of gym class was the norm. The excuses were everywhere. My personal favorite: "I have my period, I can't go in the pool" (as if tampons were a satanic concept). Now a half-marathon runner and 55 pounds lighter, I giggle thinking about my absolute hatred for the mile and all things associated with the physical fitness test.

"The short-term goal is to involve 60 percent of the workforces in Beijing by 2011, and 70 percent of the workforces of the government," said Zhang Yujing, a spokesman for the Beijing Federation of Trade Unions. "We want all state-owned enterprise workers to have restarted this routine by next year."

This has to be a joke.

Originally launched in 1951, the radio broadcasts were aimed at getting the population active and discouraging the more common less nutritious diet and sedentary lifestyle.

Do me a favor: Picture everyone in your office dropping everything and going to exercise twice a day, and let me know if we're on the same page. Betty is complaining near the water cooler that she has to change out of her designer heels. Considering you don't always have to see your boss at the gym, now money comes into play as you're the first one in line buying new Lululemon wunder groove cropped yoga pants and matching racerback top.

This capitalist influx of exercise may work in Beijing, but the notion of a similar setup is not functional for American society. How about businesses offering incentives, besides cheaper gym memberships, to their employees? Or, let's ponder the concept of a stipend, based on how many times you swipe in at your local fitness club or log your miles using an Apple Nike and iPod sport kid.

It's the rebellious mentality: You want to do everything that you know you're not supposed to. If I was told to exercise twice a day, I would revert back to my phys-ed frame of mind and make a break for it. And, I can already predict my thought process when it came time for a late afternoon stride: "Well, I did do some calisthenics earlier."

... me, doing calisthenics. Still laughing. I say leave the gym class (and your old overalls) in high school.

What do you think about Beijing's mandatory exercise? Would this work in your office?

 

Image via Conspirator/Flickr


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