Millions of people confined to China now share a common routine: a fitness session with their new star personal trainer, Liu Genghong.
The little-known, recently-born Taiwanese singer, actor and personal trainer has become a viral sensation in recent weeks as his fitness live streams draw in audiences across the country. Many of them have been locked indoors for weeks as part of the government’s response to stamp out the surge in COVID-19 cases.
The 49-year-old was also locked down with his family in Shanghai, currently in its third week of a citywide lockdown. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, Liu appears on short-form video platform Douyin – China’s version of TikTok – with his wife Wang Wanfei at 7:30 p.m., though he forces his followers to wake up early at 9 a.m. on Saturdays to a 90-minute session.
The pair are usually seen practicing to the fast tune of “Compendium of Materia Medica” by pop singer Jay Chou and others. Clips of the workout where Liu appears in a red tank top and black pants with his wife have since gone viral on social media, with people mimicking the workout routine at schools, quarantine centers and even while doing the workout. lined up for nucleic acid testing.
Liu’s workouts have been so popular during the lockdown that they have so far broken Douyin’s live streaming record for 2022, according to data analytics platform Chanmama. Within a month, his live streams had been viewed nearly 40 million times in total, with his most popular session attracting over a million live views.
Liu’s subscribers also jumped from 5 million to 33 million in just 10 weeks.
Its popularity skyrocketed in particular after a workout on April 9 in which the pair were seen wearing down jackets, supposedly after their live stream was cut for unspecified reasons.
“It was really hot,” Liu told China News, recalling the experience. “But at the time, we couldn’t find out why the live stream was cut off, so we guessed it was a dress issue and wrapped our whole body in down jackets to amuse our audience.
Douyin did not immediately respond to Sixth Tone’s request for comment at the time of publication.
Left: A screenshot shows Liu Genghong and his wife on Douyin before their session was interrupted; right: After an unspecified warning from the platform, the couple livestream in their down coats. From Weibo
Liu Xixi, a 27-year-old Shanghai resident working in the medical industry, told Sixth Tone that she has been following Liu Genghong’s live streams for a week now. She said the pair are fun to watch, especially for those looking for different ways to exercise while cooped up indoors.
“I was quarantined for almost a month,” she said. “Exercising every day makes me happier during times of stress. It’s also healthy for our body.
Online fitness activity has seen a significant increase in China since the start of the pandemic in 2020. According to a March report by Douyin, the number of fitness videos in 2021 increased by 134% while followers of this content increased by 208% over the previous year.
Liu Genghong isn’t the only icon to have recently caught the attention of fitness enthusiasts. With her workout videos, German fitness model Pamela Reif has also built up a huge fan base with over 8.3 million followers on the Xiaohongshu social platform.
Liu Genghong’s meteoric rise to fame has made him a household name, as well as another of the country’s highest-grossing live-streaming stars. He reportedly earns around 240,000 yuan a day from his livestreaming session where fans shower him with virtual gifts that can be converted into cash, according to domestic media Chinese Entrepreneurs.
Many online even joked that the fitness instructor was now facing a fierce popularity contest with Li Jiaqi, the “king of live streaming” known for his sales tactics.
“Li Jiaqi empties our wallets, Liu Genghong empties our bodies,” has become one of the most popular comments on the Weibo microblogging platform lately.
Publisher: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Photos show Liu Genghong and his wife Wang Wanfei streaming fitness sessions live from their home. From Weibo)