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    The Fitness Influencer Making Locked-Down Chinese Sweat

    Liu Genghong has emerged as an unlikely entertainer through his viral workout sessions helping people keep fit indoors.

    Millions of people under lockdown in China now share a common routine: A fitness session with their new star personal trainer Liu Genghong.

    The recently little-known Taiwan-born singer, actor, and personal trainer has turned into a viral sensation over the past weeks, as his fitness livestreams amass audiences from across the country. Many of them have been locked indoors for weeks as part of the government response to stamp out surging COVID-19 cases.

    The 49-year-old has also been in lockdown with his family in Shanghai, currently in its third week of a citywide shutdown. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, Liu appears on short video platform Douyin — China’s version of TikTok — with wife Wang Wanfei at 7:30 p.m., though he makes his followers wake up early at 9 a.m. on Saturdays for a 90-minute session.

    The couple is usually seen exercising to the fast-paced tune of pop singer Jay Chou’s “Compendium of Materia Medica” and others. Snippets of the workout where Liu appears in a red tank top and black slacks with his wife have since gone viral on social media, with people imitating the workout routine at schools, quarantine centers, and even while lining up for nucleic acid tests. 

    Liu’s workout sessions have been so popular during the lockdown that they have broken Douyin’s livestreaming record for 2022 so far, according to data analysis platform Chanmama. Within one month, his livestreams have been viewed nearly 40 million times altogether, with his most popular session attracting over 1 million live views. 

    Liu’s followers have also increased from 5 million to 33 million in just 10 weeks.   

    His popularity soared especially following a workout on April 9 during which the couple were seen wearing a down jacket, supposedly after their livestream was disrupted for unspecified reasons. 

    “It was really hot,” Liu told domestic outlet China News, recalling the experience. “But at the time, we couldn’t find out why the livestream was cut off. So we guessed it was a clothing issue, and we wrapped up our whole bodies in down jackets to amuse our audience.”

    Douyin did not respond immediately to Sixth Tone’s request for a comment by publication time.

    Liu Xixi, a 27-year-old Shanghai resident working in the medical sector, told Sixth Tone that she has been following Liu Genghong’s livestreams for a week now. She said the couple are fun to watch, especially for those looking for various ways to exercise while cooped up indoors.  

    “I have been quarantined for nearly a month,” she said. “Working out every day makes me feel happier during the stressful period. It’s healthy for our body as well.” 

    The online fitness business has seen a significant surge in China since the pandemic started in 2020. According to a March report by Douyin, the number of fitness videos in 2021 increased by 134% while followers of such content were up by 208% compared with the previous year. 

    Liu Genghong isn’t the only icon who has been able to get the attention of fitness enthusiasts recently. With her workout videos, German fitness model Pamela Reif has also built a massive fanbase with over 8.3 million followers on social platform Xiaohongshu. 

    Liu Genghong’s meteoric rise to fame has made him a household name, as well as another of the country’s profitable livestreaming stars. He reportedly makes some 240,000 yuan a day through his livestreaming session where fans shower him with virtual gifts that can be converted to cash, according to domestic media Chinese Entrepreneurs. 

    Many online have even joked that the fitness instructor was now facing a stiff popularity contest with Li Jiaqi, the “livestreaming king” known for his sales tactics.  

    “Li Jiaqi empties our wallet, Liu Genghong empties our body,” has become one of the most popular comments on microblogging platform Weibo lately. 

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari. 

    (Header image: Photos show Liu Genghong and wife Wang Wanfei livestreaming fitness sessions from their home. From Weibo)