A lot of people who move to Shanghai 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.
But the time when we had the right to complain about fitness options is long gone. Gyms abound, competing fiercely for customers. (Like English-teaching centres, they even charge too hard and burn out from time to time, ending up bankrupt, so be careful with those long-term deals.) Expats have decided, Gandhi-like, to be the change they want to see in the world and started their own clubs in rugby, football, ice hockey, ultimate frisbee… one guy even invented his own sport. 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 Shanghai, 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. The yoga craze comes from the fact that it’s a perfect Shanghai fit – an Eastern discipline brought to the city in its current form by Westerners and embraced by locals and foreigners alike. Tai chi is for the oldsters in the parks in the morning – or the French guy looking to try something to take his mind off work stress. 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 – perhaps you’re reading this on the stationary bike in one of them now. Either way, Shanghai has all you need, and it won’t be hard to find it.
Shanghai Rugby Football Club
A fixture on the Shanghai sporting scene, this club has been going since 1997 and now incorporates a host of teams and competitions, thousands of square metre of grass pitches of various kinds, a floodlit football pitch and tennis courts, parking for a hundred cars and a 1200 square foot clubhouse (opened in 2011) complete with kitchen and bar. Note that teams may practice elsewhere; see club or individual websites for details.
2700 Zhangyang Bei Lu, by Wuzhou Da Dao on Metro Line 6, Wuzhou Avenue stop
SRFC teams include:
Shanghai Hairy Crabs
Competitive and welcoming rugby team that also tours.
137 7437 3890
Shanghai Sharks/Shanghai Sassy Shrimps
Full contact women’s sevens rugby/women’s touch rugby.
Shanghai Cricket Club
Shanghai’s premier cricket team, with its own league.
Australian rules football (AFL) team founded in 2002 and going from strength to strength.
158 2135 7127
Shanghai International Football League
Arguably Shanghai’s best amateur league, 20 teams in two divisions play a full season and compete against Asia’s best. Games are played at Tianma Country Club in Songjiang (buses from downtown Shanghai are provided).
Tianma Golf and Country Club, 3958 Zhaokun Lu, Songjiang District
Shanghai Premier League
Going strong for over a decade, the other main international football league has eight teams and plays in the Green City development in Jinqiao.
Pudong: Jinqiao Greencity, Lan’an Lu, by Biyun Lu
Shanghai Gaelic Football Club
An Irish sport growing in popularity here, since it’s easy to pick up and involves plenty of running to get fit. Weekend sessions are at SRFC.
Tue 8-10pm, Sat 11am-1pm
Luwan Stadium, 135 Jianguo Xi Lu, by Shaanxi Nan Lu
137 7441 1685
Specialised Riders Club
Club run by a bike store that organises bike trips both around and out of town, as well as longer jaunts for people with a weekend or a week to spare.
221 Jianguo Xi Lu, by Shaanxi Nan Lu
A mountain biking club that provides transport and equipment (including bike if needed) for weekend trips out of town. Family-friendly.
Rm.2308, Bldg 2, 2918 Zhongshan Bei Lu, by Caoyang Lu
Shanghai Softball League
Shanghai’s softball league has 14 teams and over 200 players, with two seasons each year. Social and competitive.
200 Puxing Gong Lu
Shanghai Hockey Club
Pick-up games three nights a week and a six-team league, on a full-size rink. Expect dodgy ice and fog in Shanghai’s summer heat.
Wed, Fri 8:30-10pm; Sun 8-9:30pm
Songjiang University Students Sports Center, 2000 Wenxiang Lu, Songjiang District
139 1738 2385
Active Sport Active Social (ASAS)
Go-getting club that organises social sporting activities like dodgeball, basketball, flag football, 7-a-side soccer, hiking and more.
Shanghai Hash House Harriers
The international “drinking club with a running problem” – weekly runs of 6-15 km followed by eating, drinking and merriment.
Sun 2:30pm (winter), 3:30pm (summer)
139 1821 0815
Weekly matches and regional tours in a group of over 100 club members.
Mon 8-10pm, Thu 8-10pm, Sat. 10am-12pm
Jing’an Workers’ Stadium, 888 Changping Lu, by Jiaozhou Lu