Many expats in Beijing complain about the unhealthy lifestyle. People tend to work long hours, and for many the social scene revolves around late nights eating and drinking. Business dinners have a habit of devolving into banquets with endless toasts and nowhere to hide. It’s easy to get into the habit of taking taxis everywhere, and to neglect exercise or general health, particularly if you live in the city and have to make an effort to get out to exercise. The sweltering summer and frigid winter, as well as the powerful pollution, make this a place where outdoor exercise isn’t always the best idea; the size of the city means walking from place to place is often unfeasible; and making an effort to travel to a gym or sports club can seem pretty unappealing compared to curling up on the sofa with a DVD and ordering in.
But the time when we had an excuse to forgo our fitness is long gone. Gyms abound, competing fiercely for customers. (Like English-teaching centers, they go out too hard and close from time to time, ending up bankrupt, so be careful with those long-term deals.) Expats have decided, Buddha-like, to be the change they want to see in the world and started their own clubs in rugby, football, ice hockey and more. Locals have done the same, or joined up with the expat clubs, making them great cultural melting pots. And while massage and spas have always been popular in Beijing, they’ve reached a new level with the spread of both affordable chains with high standards and pricey, incredibly luxurious hotel spa options.
And there’s more. Yoga continues to grow in popularity. Tai chi is not just for the oldsters in the parks in the morning, but for young professionals trying to take their mind off work. Salsa is so popular that people are already looking for something less common to make into the next dance trend. Tango, anyone?
The listings that follow are just a taste of what’s available. We don’t include every branch of every gym or health spot, since there are far too many. You should also be aware that many of the high-end compounds in the city have superb gyms and sports facilities. Perhaps you’ll be using one of them every day. Hotels too often have excellent fitness facilities. Either way, Beijing has what you need, and it won’t be hard to find it.
Sporting Clubs and Venues
Badaling Ski Resort
There are quite a few skiing places around Beijing, though none of them really earn the word ‘resort’ and it’s a very different experience from European or American skiing – think less Alpine or Rocky majesty and serenity, more short slopes, pop music and artificial snow. If you’re a serious skier, you should try them all – the best may be Nanshan Ski Village. We feature Badaling here because it’s probably the easiest to get to, about 70 km from the city, and offers two runs, a snowmobile course, sledding and various other family-friendly activities, plus lodges.
Badaling Town, Yanqing County
Bad News Bears Baseball Club
Relaxed club that nonetheless takes its baseball seriously and plays or trains most weekends. Ideally for people who have played before.
Chaoyang Sports Center, 77 Yaojiayuan Lu, Chaoyang
Part of the China Culture Center, this club organises weekend hikes and overnight trips to places offering both a good day’s exercise and cultural interest.
Room 101, Kent Center, No. 29, Anjialou, Liangmaqiao Lu, Chaoyang
Something for those who like their exercise rhythmic and dressed-up, with ballroom dancing, salsa and swing. Free dance every Saturday and lessons available.
Sino-Chu Wine Bar, 18 Liangmahe Nanlu, Dongcheng
131 2102 5208
Beijing Black Tiger Academy
Fairly hardcore martial arts training center with MMA, muay thai, boxing and conditioning programs. Personal and group training from extremely expert instructors who specialize in pushing you that little big harder each time.
2/F, 5 Laiguangying Donglu, Chaoyang
Hyundai Motor Building, B101, 38 Xiaoyun Lu, Chaoyang
131 2121 9317
Beijing Bombers Aussie Rules Football Club
Get to grips with (or continue playing) Aussie Rules football, with a league, training and a women’s team (the Bombshells). Open to the inexperienced and unfit as well as the experts.
Beijing City International School, 77 Baiziwan Nan Er Lu, Chaoyang
Beijing Cricket Club
Extremely well-run club with two weekend leagues and Asian tours, social events and annual competitions. All levels welcomed and all equipment provided.
Dulwich College, Legend Garden Campus, 89 Jichang Lu, Shunyi
Beijing Dragon Boating Club
Immerse yourself in local culture while getting a serious workout at the same time with this club, which trains on Houhai Lake during the summer. The club is very social and there’s also the opportunity for trips to compete around China.
Thu 7-9pm, Sun 4:30-6:30pm
Golden Sail Water Sports Club, 81A Houhai Xiyan, Xicheng
135 0103 6116
Beijing Equuleus International Riding Club
Training in dressage, show jumping and basic riding for riders or all ages and experience levels at this pleasant and professional stables and horse riding facility.
91 Shunbai Lu, Sunhe Zhen, Chaoyang
Beijing Gaelic Football Club
Men’s and women’s teams in this Irish sport that is taking off for expats around China, with regular training at various venues, games and Asian tours. The club is open to all levels of ability and prides itself on its social events.
Western Academy, 10 Laiguangying Donglu, Chaoyang
139 1175 6121
Beijing Hash House Harriers
The Beijing chapter of the “drinking club with a running problem”, this group is a fun way to meet new people and get some exercise while seeing new parts of the city. Runs are on Sunday afternoons and average 7-10 km, followed by copious eating and drinking.
This club has been around for over 10 years and organizes weekend treks with guides and an eco-friendly approach to hiking, offering a way to get to meet people and see beautiful parts of the area outside Beijing without dealing with tourist traps or souvenir shops.
Xinhualian Ligang, Building No. 2, Suite 601, 26 Jiuxianqiao Zhong Lu, Chaoyang
Beijing Hockey Club
Friendly club for people into field hockey, with training at the Olympic Training Center. Games every weekend on an astroturf pitch.
Olympic Green, Haidian
Beijing International Badminton Club
Long-running group of expats and locals that are always looking for new members for their regular games – some playing experience preferred.
Wed 7-9pm, Sun 10am-12pm
Side Park Badminton Center, across from Rosedale Hotel, near Lido, Chaoyang
firstname.lastname@example.org (John Ho)
Beijing International Ice Hockey
Beijing winter is ice hockey weather, and this international club has Sunday night games in a six-team league and trips around the country. Note that it’s non-contact. The aim is fun – as the website says, “Our glory days are over”.
Haosha Hockey Rink, 8 Xingluo Jie, Chaoyang Lu, Chaoyang
Beijing Milun School of Traditional Kung Fu
With seriously adept instructors, some from the famed Shaolin Temple itself, this is a surprisingly relaxed place to study traditional Chinese kung fu, with various variations and schools offered. Classes are either in a Wangfujing courtyard or in Ritan Park. Both private and group lessons available.
Mon 7-8:30pm, Thu 7-8:30pm, Sat-Sun 5-6:30pm
33 Xitangzi Hutong, Wangfujing, Dongcheng
138 1170 6568
Beijing Softball League
Open to men and women no matter their level of experience or ability, with the aim of having fun and meeting people. Games are on Sundays with a mix of sponsored and self-organized teams.
Tiger Field, Western Academy of Beiing, 10 Laiguangying Donglu, Chaoyang
email@example.com (Richard Liu)
Beijing Ultimate Frisbee
This friendly club is open to all, with five different teams and games most days somewhere around the city and well as trips to international tournaments. Pick-up games Wednesdays.
Zhichun Lu, Haidian
136 0103 6430
This organisation runs children’s coaching camps with staff who have been through English FA training programs; for adults, the focus is five-a-side football, with over 30 teams playing on weekday evenings. Ladies welcome, too.
Unit A212, Door 3, Zone A1, Zhaowei Huadeng Plaza, No. 51 Zhaowei Building, 14 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang
This club of enthusiastic climbers organizes climbs in Ritan Park during the week, and goes further afield at weekends.
Fengyuxue Ritan Park Climbing Wall, Ritan Park, Chaoyang
138 0105 2361
Ditan Ice Arena
Practice your skating in the summer so that you’re ready to get out on the frozen lakes once the big winter freeze sets in, or have a try at curling. Beware rough ice at the busiest times though.
Tue-Fri 1:30-9pm, Sat-Sun 9am-9pm
14A Hepingli Zhongjie, by Ditan Park north gate, Dongcheng
Dongdan PE Center
With both indoor and outdoor courts, this is a great place to rent a full or half court with your friends, or to check out if you’re looking for a pick-up game. Basketball is crazy popular here, so plan ahead.
108 Chongwenmennei Nandajie, Dongcheng
Fenxing Fencing Club
Saber and epee classes for beginners and the more advanced at this long-established club, which has relationships with several of the international schools. Private, group and family class packages available.
Building 2050, Gahood Villa, 5 Yunyang Lu, Xibaixinzhuang, Shunyi
Fenxing on Facebook
International Friendship Football Club
With around 40 teams in different leagues and divisions and approaching a 1,000 members, this is the daddy of Beijing’s international sports scene. New players can form teams or join existing ones, and there’s a big social element to the club as well, with charity events, fundraisers and national and international tours. Games and training take place all over the city.
139 1137 9593
National Aquatics Center
If you’re going to swim, why not do it where the best in the world did in 2008 at the Water Cube? The Beijing Olympics best known structure has been turned into a water resort with loads of slides, rides, spa areas, a wave pool and more. It’s definitely worth a visit, particularly with kids – and you can still swim in the pool if you’re willing to brave the crowds.
Olympic Green, Beichen Lu, Chaoyang
National Olympic Sports Center
As well as swimming (see below), this impressive facility offers tennis, badminton, basketball, football and field hockey in the main, but there are classes and facilities for far more, including rock climbing, fencing, diving and tae kwon do. Anywhere that held the water polo, handball and modern pentathlon events during the Olympics has to be versatile.
1 Anding Lu, Yayuncun (Olympic Village), Chaoyang
National Olympic Sports Center Swimming Pool
Not to be confused with the Water Cube, this excellent indoor pool, which actually predates the Olympics, is a good place to get some serious training in. Don’t forget that you’ll have to wear a swim cap (required in every pool open to the public in the city).
1 Anding Lu, Yayuncun (Olympic Village), Chaoyang
Squash Ladder Club
There’s no clubhouse or set playing location, this is simply a set-up to allow people (mostly foreigners) to organize games and move up or down the eponymous ladder as they play. Send them an email to get involved.
U-Speed Go Karting
Speed late into the night on this 350-meter, curvy indoor track. Trackside bar and restaurant make the whole thing go with a swing, so be sure to wear your helmet. Pool and darts to keep you occupied while you’re waiting.
Mon-Fri 2pm-2am, Sat-Sun 11am-2am
1 Siyuan Bridge, Jingshun Lu, Lido, Chaoyang
135 2137 4134
Vermilion Beijing Devils Rugby Football Club
Very successful and popular rugby club with men’s and women’s teams as well as touch rugby tournaments. They have over 150 members and travel around the country as well as to contests around Asia. All are welcome (including purely social members) and the home base is The Den, a bar in Sanlitun.
The Den, 4 Gongti Donglu, Sanlitun, Chaoyang