Mass Exercising – Try a new Culture on for Size

The Beijing Government is pushing mass exercising again to increase the health of the nation. Mao Ze Dong began mass exercising in the 1950s and many of my Chinese friends grew up doing such exercises in school.

While working at Kingold Group in China, we did mass exercises at 11am and again at 3pm. We did the same exercise everyday and eventually I was able to memorize it and do it without any aides or the need to clumsily mimic others. My Chinese coworkers thought it was hilarious to watch me because I of course wasn’t doing it with natural flow most of them performed with. It was kind of like watching Jay Leno doing a hardcore rap song about rollin’ through the rough part of town.

However, there was some camaraderie that I could feel and it was invigorating to get up in the afternoon and get my blood flowing. Some days I did feel like we were all being magically brainwashed as we moved in unison, but I don’t see how any existing technologies could be brainwashing me in those moments.

Overall, it was a very different cultural experience. I participated and was rewarded with greater trust, deeper friendships, moments of laughter, greater understanding of the benefits of Chinese culture, and I was able to skip the afternoon nodding off that typically happens after eating too large of a lunch.

I think we should be willing to participate in other people’s culture. Try it out. That doesn’t mean we have to try their religious ceremonies and worship other gods if we don’t believe it is the right thing to do. It just means we can try on cultural opportunities for size. We will start to realize that a different culture offers benefits our culture may not offer. We realize that our way doesn’t have to be the only right way. In fact, there might even be something better out there. And even if it turns out that such a cultural activity doesn’t fit us at all, at least we can understand just a little bit more what it means to be Chinese or Russian or French.  

About Global China Blog - Biz, Culture, and Life

I am a lover of China. I graduated from the University of Hawaii's China International MBA in 2010. At BYU, my undergraduate degree in history focused on modern US and Asian history. I am an expert negotiator and recently negotiated a multimillion dollar contract with the LPGA and IMG to bring the first ladies professional golf tournament to Mainland China since its first tournament in 2008. While in Utah, I helped an online marketing start-up company grow from 20 employees to over 120 employees as Director of Operations and later VP of Sales and Marketing. Whether its China, strategy, or sales, I love being with people and helping them see their own unique offering and how to align themselves accordingly.
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6 Responses to Mass Exercising – Try a new Culture on for Size

  1. Melinda says:

    hmmm Jay Leno might be a bit generous don’t you think? j/k.

  2. Deanna says:

    OK, so how do I bring this into my office? How long is this exercise and how do you fight the arguments that it’s costing x dollars per minute times x employees? I, of course, see the benefit of avoiding the afternoon nap. But can also see the “I’m too busy” factor. Or… the phone ringing off the hook. I’m all for incorporating great ideas from other cultures. In fact, I’m always looking for great new ideas. So… how do I incorporate it????

    • The exercise was usually 5 to 10 minutes long.

      Money Concern
      Can the 5 to 10 minutes you would have spent on the phone call or with the client or on the report produce the same amount of results in so short a time?

      Look at it in extremes:
      What about eating lunch?
      Going home?
      Driving to work?
      Watching TV at night?
      You could have been earning money instead of doing those activities, but without these necessary activities this unbalanced lifestyle plan would……
      Reduce mental health, which would…
      Reduce brain capacity, which would…
      Reduce quality of service and that….
      Reduces benefits to customers, which…
      Reduces customer satisfaction and that…
      Reduces repeat business and referrals, which ultimately….
      Reduces the amount of money you are effectively earning per hour per employee.
      We should be investing in our brain capacity with activities such as….
      Taking breaks
      Seeking entertainment
      Finding spiritual time
      So, the company might do well to have a shot of brain capacity strengthening where it is weak.

      The results:
      1. Less time to burnout, meaning the longer hours during tax season could be a little more bearable and performance could be higher in the hours where performance dips. In fact you could target those less effective hours as a time to insert a shot of health into the office.
      2. Stronger teams and team values improve cooperation and effective communication which = better performance = more money.
      3. Taking a break and coming back to a project can germinate new ideas and offer a fresher perspective.
      4. Having healthier employees has been proven to increase performance. That’s why Google has a gym built into their offices (along with ping pong tables). My new company will actually reimburse half of my monthly gym costs.

      People like being a part of a company that takes care of them and offers a great culture.
      People don’t like being forced to do things that make no sense.
      1. Provide them with stats about how 5 minutes of exercise can change their health.
      2. Involvement can increase commitment – so, involve them in deciding when would be best to perform the exercise, what music should be used, or how long they think it should last.
      3. Let them know there are exceptions to every rule and people can skip if they are in the middle of an important meeting.

      Remind them that you are not asking for all day, but just 5 to 10 minutes of their least effective time and look at all the benefits.

      Too busy factor
      Too busy for what? Health? A stronger and closer team? More effective brain capacity? A unique culture that employees are proud of and love to tell others about? A refreshingly good break?

      Too often we let our schedule run our lives with urgent busy work. These types of activities are an opportunity for your office to run your schedule with investment time. We have to invest in our knowledge, health, and future.

      If you are truly too busy, there are exceptions, but if you target the low performance hours, then you are taking advantage of your company’s weaknesses.

      Ask them when they feel like falling asleep. Are they pumping their bodies with caffeine to get through it? Maybe a blast of fresh air and blood pumping would be more effective and powerful.

      Remember your true goal
      Don’t lose site of the real goal. Exercising for 5 to 10 minutes as a team is just a means to an end. If you can strengthen the team, increase health, improve mental capacity and performance, reduce burnout, and improve the company culture with some other activity or two, then great.

      Also remember that this is a true team building exercise that equalizes all the staff into a unified activity. The low level employees get to engage with the senior partners in an activity they can all do together on equal footing. That’s good for morale and reminds everyone that we are all just people trying to do our best. And everyone will be smiling and laughing, which releases endorphins and produces greater happiness.

      • Deanna says:

        This post will be the topic of discussion at our office meeting next Friday. We have a body builder in the staff and I’ve already approached him to lead us.

        We have a wellness program that we change three times per year. Spring and fall it’s a competition between teams. (So many points for so much exercise.) Prizes are cash or clothing with firm logo’s. In the summer we are all hit-and-miss so we play 5 card poker… if you exercise, you get a card. Winner gets a $10 bill. It’s fall and time to change it up again and we’re considering figuratively climbing a mountain. Each program has a visual that our clients can see and talk about. The client’s love it and look for it if they can’t see it right away.

        I’m excited about implementing a 5-10 minute daily activity. I’m thinking we could rotate a person each day who has to stay out and answer phones and clients coming in. No desire for sweat, though, as we don’t want to stink when we’re done!

        Thanks, Jeremie. I’m anxious for activity suggestions. No jumping jacks – I’ve hated those ever since I was a kid. 🙂

  3. Sounds like you guys are really interested in this topic and have done quite a bit so far. I am very impressed!

    At my company in China, it was closer to five minutes and we didn’t sweat at all. We kicked foward, squated and then came up to a stand, twisted our hips, bent over sideways back and forth with our hands on our hips, thrusted our arms forward in a punching motion – one at a time, and then jogged in place for 10 seconds at the end, while clapping our hands in rhythm.

    Good luck and let me know how it goes! I always hated pull-ups, which are difficult to provide the resources to perform luckily.

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