Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lessons from Beijing

Watching the Olympics it's interesting to note how different countries and different races excel in different area of sport.

And it's obvious that Asians are good at several sports. I think the implications are clear for Taiwan. Put more emphasis on exercise, sport and health and you can get results.

Since I have been living in the Taipei area, my judgment is based on what I have seen here. People do a lot of sports and exercise through high school but it all falls off in university. Once students reach the workforce, they are mostly couch potatoes.

Girls turn to makeup and high heels and boys turn to their computer monitors and video games.

Women worry about building muscles but don't realize that exercise can tone and tighten flabby body parts. They go on no-eating diets which are not really even diets at all. But their slim bodies for the most part put on the extra weight they so fear in their 30s.

They also try to maintain their pristine white skin by staying indoors explaining it away with "one white hides three darks". In fact, this expression, which is used to justify staying as white as possible, harks back to times when having dark skin meant that you came from a working background (ex. working outside in the fields as a poor farmer). It separated you from the rich and pampered who never had to work under the beating sun. It's hardly the case in modern society Taiwan. God knows people need to get active outside more rather than less.

Men are not afraid of getting a little dark. However, the white collar workers sit in cubicles and their cars relatively motionless. On the weekends, they huff and puff with a baby on their back in the park or take naps in department stores as their wives and kids shop on. As for the
blue collar workers, they do backbreaking work but smoke heavily and sometimes drink excessively as do some of their white collar counterparts.

The point is that people never look back at their healthier earlier selves to discover what they need to do differently. They largely become lethargic and lazy. And although there are some noticeable exercisers they are the exception rather than the rule. And what is the root cause? Well, it's a mixture of long overtime work hours, terrible commutes, a more and more unhealthy diet which are sometimes unavoidable. However, mostly little or no emphasis on exercise past a certain point in Taiwanese's lives is a big factor as well.

Taiwanese can be better at sports and exercise in general. This is clear. However, if Taiwan wants more gold or any kinds of medals to push their international recognition status, they have to somehow change the general later life mindset against exercise. You can maintain (at least) your shape with healthier eating AND regular exercise and being active. This is the message that needs to get across.
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