China: Animals inspire new exercise trend

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

Image source, QQ TV/Ren Dongteng
Image caption, Crawling around can improve physical health, according to one doctor

An unusual form of exercise which involves walking like an animal has been gaining popularity in China, it's reported.

Participants in the eastern city of Zhengzhou were spotted donning gloves before slowly proceeding along a path on all-fours, the China News Service reports. While the crawling exercise might not look comfortable, one doctor tells the site it does have health benefits. Lu Peiwan, deputy chief physician at Henan Province Hospital, says it improves some muscles which humans don't often use, and can help to strengthen ligaments and bones.

The exercise is based on a method used in traditional Chinese medicine, the report says, in which people imitate the movements of five different animals: the bear, monkey, deer, tiger and bird.

China is known for its sometimes unconventional fitness practices. Aside from the country's famous dama - women who dance around to music in public squares - walking backwards is also a common form of exercise in parks.

The idea that crawling around outside can have health benefits doesn't convince many Chinese social media users, some of whom think the exercise looks ridiculous. "If I saw this in my park I would feel embarrassed," writes one person on microblogging site Sina Weibo. Another says: "The evolution of the human race just regressed 5,000 years." But some believe it is good for the body, and one user notes that at least there is no music involved: "This is better than square dancing, and doesn't disturb anyone!"

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