China's Health Miracle
What if I told you that the world's most polluted city also ranks near the top in world life expectancy rankings...would you believe me? What if other highly polluted cities in this country performed equally well, you'd call it a "miracle" would you not...well that's exactly what's taking place in China's large cities and we believe it's a miracle that has "Legs." Life expectancy in Beijing and Shanghai has reached 80 years and it's 82 in Hong Kong. All have massive pollution problems. Life expectancy in Berlin is 79.8, San Francisco and New York are barely 80 and the list goes on. With its population centers performing so well you might expect the entire country to have a high ranking, but that's not the case.
China still has serious health challenges, especially in her rural provinces, but we can't ignore that China's national life expectancy average has had to absorb this poor performance to get where they are now. No country can resolve national health issues evenly and certainly not in a country the size of China. Improvement invariably begins in the large cities and moves out from there and that's where one has to look to answer the question of what would their life expectancy be if they didn't have such massive pollution or didn't have to boil their tap water for it to be fit to drink?
In looking for answers one thing is readily apparent...every morning and every night people gather publicly to exercise, mostly outdoors. One group is practicing tai chi while another group is wrapped up in some form of line dancing and aerobics. These cities all have outdoor fitness areas with chin-up bars and other exercise options as well. There's no shortage of exercising here in the United States either, but in China's big cities exercising is more widespread and woven into the culture. The social interaction seems to be as important as the calories burned. Most heartening is the number of older people out and about, fighting the isolation that often comes with old age in the United States. Does the prevalence of public exercise help ward off the diseases that would normally come from living in a polluted city...one needs to look no further than India to get your first clue. India has had similar economic growth and massive pollution problems as well, but has a culture that virtually ignores exercise. The Chinese live 9 years longer.