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The Health Rave: Entertainment and Exercise in One



On a Sunday morning, elderly couples sit in the shade of a tree at Ditan Park. A man and woman bat around a badminton birdie in the square, while children are down on their hands and knees playing with a toy truck. Suddenly a blonde-haired young man bursts onto the scene, jumping into the focal point. He's sporting a headband and his trademark pink shorts. A group of 50some joggers follow suit, bringing a sound system with them.

The Heyrobics Health Rave has arrived. Upbeat dance music starts thumping, and the crowd follows the leader, throwing hands up in the air, lunging side to side. At the perimeter, another crowd gathers to watch, nod heads, and snap photos. Some of the gutsier children join in the exercises.

Started by Sweded Linus Holmsater, Heyrobics has regular fitness events around Beijing, encouraging fun over competition. They always have music pumping, and the moves aren't complicated, as led by a smiling instructor. Holmsater calls out instructions and bounces up and down with contagious energy. The crowd of participants is largely made up of foreign women, though there's a respectable number of men and Chinese of varying ages.

Once the Health Rave's entertaining warm-up definitely has everyone's hearts thumping faster, it's time to run. A small team of coaches leads three exercise sessions, sprinkled into four kilometers of jogging or walking.

The course takes people through crowds of onlookers, park greenery and tight Beijing alleyways. The last exercise station has everyone down on the ground doing an array of easy and less-than-easy exercises.

About an hour after it started, people convene at The Hutong cultural exchange centre for a surprisingly tasty barbecue lunch (with vegetarian options).

The Heyrobics group started up in 2010, when some Swedish friends wanted to continue the Swedish movement of Jympa in Beijing. Jympa, is basically aerobics, but without so much focus on long routines or coordination. Which is good, because if you ever tried aerobics, it's almost impossible on your first day.

Heyrobics offers a variety of different exercise sessions and events, with most sessions priced around 25 rmb. Special events like the Health Rave cost 100 rmb, and include lunch and a few prizes.