In Malaysia, athleisure has become everyone’s obsession, just as it has in Western countries. Most people have already signed up as members for gyms like Anytime Fitness, or cycling classes such as Fly Cycle. Any successful Instagram influencers will write about their fitness goals and advocate working out and eating healthier food. However, how can Japanese people stay just as fit but without ever going to the gym?
Did you know that Japan is the leading country with the longest average life expectancy globally (83.7 years) and one of the lowest rates of obesity (3.6%), and yet, there is little to no workout culture in Japan? In an insight survey done by Rakuten, it was found that among 1000 Japanese citizens ages between 20 to 60, 55% of them revealed that they barely exercise, either once a month or not at all. They simply don’t feel the need to incorporate workouts into their lifestyle.
How Do Japanese People Stay So Fit?
When we talk about exercise, the first thing that comes to your mind is working out. However, that is not the case for Japanese people. Going to a gym or lifting weights is not the kind of exercise that is as easy to weave into our lifestyle as, you guessed it, walking.
This shows that just because Japanese people don’t incorporate the conventional form of exercising, they can’t have a healthy life. Instead, they take on a different approach, which is to walk: everywhere. On average, Japanese adults walk 6500 steps a day, with male adults in their 20sto 50s walking about 8000 steps a day, and women in the same age range walk nearly 7000 steps. A rural area in Japan called Nagano managed to turnover their high stroke rate only by incorporating over 100 walking routes. Now, they are happily enjoying being a part of that highest longevity rate in the country.
“The first thing we wanted was just to get people walking. Everyone can do that. You walk, you talk, you get exercise and that helps build up a sense of community,”
— Nagano, Matsumoto’s mayor, Akira Sugenoya
The huge plus to this was Japan’s overall urban planning. From the very beginning, Japan’s landscape was designed to make their cities very walkable. Additionally, the available public transportation is safe, affordable, and convenient. Plus, not many households own a car there; hence when most people go to work or when kids go to school, they walk. Walking is a huge part of their daily routine, much like breathing is.
What Does That Say About Fitness Culture?
Alert: This is NOT a call against working out.
Rather a reminder that fitness culture can be overwhelming for those who aren’t used to it or don’t have the means for it. Promoting too much of it by showcasing this perfect and healthy life could perpetuate feelings of shame and guilt. It can make us believe that achieving our healthy weight can only happen if we put down a ton of money for gym memberships and set aside an hour of our day for some intensive intervals.
This shows that eating healthy doesn’t have to be salads and exercising doesn’t have to be working out. Maybe, the simple lifestyle fitness you need is just to walk a bit more.