Chinese White-Collar Workers Are Going Crazy for Boxing and Ultimate Frisbee

Influencers and a hit film are fueling interest in new or unconventional sports as office workers search for adventure and friendship

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11:38 PM HKT, Fri May 3, 2024 1 mins read

Sports are growing more popular with Chinese white-collar workers, but perhaps not how you would expect — they are neither sitting down to watch the World Cup, nor shooting hoops in pick-up basketball. According to the 2024 Douyin Sport Trend Report, a collaboration between CBN Data and Ocean Engine, 2023 witnessed a substantial increase of 38% in the average monthly engagement within Douyin live streams dedicated to the purchase of sport-related goods. This surge encompasses a wide array of products, ranging from apparel and equipment to event tickets and classes, all reflecting a growing enthusiasm for sports-related consumption among Chinese consumers.

In addition to mainstream sporting events, high-income white-collar workers in major cities are showing a growing interest in niche sports. Activities such as indoor rock climbing, skateboarding, and flying disk sports like ultimate frisbee are gaining popularity among urban professionals, offering a departure from traditional leisure pursuits.

One significant driving force is the desire for novel experiences among Chinese white-collar workers, who seek unconventional ways to unwind from demanding work schedules. These innovative sports offer adventure and physical challenge, breaking the monotony of daily life and fostering community. Take ultimate frisbee for instance, which has minimal physical contact, breaks gender boundaries, and can enhance social connections. According to 2022 research by 36Kr, over 60% of frisbee players surveyed cited making new friends as their main goal.

Cultural influences, amplified by platforms like Xiaohongshu and Douyin, glamorize these activities as symbols of modern lifestyles and identities. Jia Ling’s recent hit film YOLO, for which the actress/director lost weight through boxing, resonated with viewers. Young white-collar women have signed up for boxing classes not only for the health benefits, but also due to ideas of persistence and empowerment represented by the sport.

Ultimately, the rise of niche sports among Chinese white-collar workers reflects a broader cultural shift towards a more dynamic and adventurous lifestyle. As these activities continue to gain traction, they represent more than just passing fads —they embody a fundamental change in how urban professionals choose to spend their leisure time, seeking fulfillment through physical challenges, community, and the pursuit of new experiences.

Banner image collage via Xiaohongshu.

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