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A strange new fitness craze is spreading in China. Called the ‘crocodile crawl’, fans say it leads to a healthier life and relieves spinal pain. Photo: SCMP composite

‘Crocodile crawl’ to a healthy life — the new fad among China’s elderly who swear it relieves back pain trending on social media

  • A form of crawling exercise by a fast-growing band of followers dubbed the ‘Crocodile Group’ from eastern China has taken mainland social media by storm
  • The members meet dressed in uniforms and chant rhythmic slogans as they crawl like crocodiles on a mountainside jogging track every day

A mountain in eastern China is the source of the latest social media fad on the mainland — not for its beautiful scenery, but for the “Crocodile Group”, hundreds of locals who crawl on the ground like reptiles as exercise.

At the Xiangshan Mountain tour zone in Jiangsu province, the group meet dressed in uniforms and chant rhythmic slogans, as they crawl like crocodiles on a jogging track and an open square every day, state media CCTV reported.

They have practised the exercises for a year now, with membership expanding from just a few people at first to nearly 1,000.

The Jiangsu group is not alone in China, with dozens of people doing similar exercises in central China’s Hunan province according to local media reports. Photo:

Zhu Jianliang is the group’s director and was among the first people to start this unorthodox crawling exercise, and claimed the activity could help relieve pain in the spine.

The oldest member of the group is 69 years old, according to Zhu.

The group even has a coach, Li Wei, who said he himself has felt the benefits of the crawling movements.

“I previously had problems with a herniated disc. After doing this for eight months, I don’t feel any pain any more,” Li told CCTV.

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The group is not alone in China. Dozens of people do similar exercises in Changsha in central China’s Hunan province, the Sanxiang Metropolis News reported.

“I read somewhere on the internet that creeping like crocodiles can relieve the symptoms of lumbar vertebra pain which I had been suffering from for years. I then learned how to do this exercise. I should say it is effective,” Changsha crocodile crawler Zuo Guihui told the paper.

Chen Xin, an orthopaedist from the Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing, said the crocodile-like crawling movement is not dangerous and is similar in form to doing push-ups but moving forward at the same time.

“People’s bodies are flat like that when they swim,” Chen told CCTV. “It reduces the pressure on intervertebral discs and is helpful for improving the surrounding muscle strength.”

The exercise fad is not safe for everyone though, with some doctors warning against it for those with heart and blood pressure conditions. Photo:

But he warned that older people and those with shoulder or leg problems should avoid this form of exercise.

Xu Shunlin, a cardiologist from the same hospital, said patients with diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases are also not advised to participate.

“Doing this movement can make your blood pressure spike very quickly and it will place more pressure on your heart than walking,” said Xu.

Many in China have been amused by the new form of exercise.

“The bipedal gift of human beings gained from hundreds of thousands of years of evolution has mysteriously vanished,” joked one person on Weibo.

“For a tourist who saw this group of people crawling on Xiangshan Mountain for the first time, he would probably think an army of crocodiles was marching,” another user joked.