Japan’s Oldest People Do This 5-minute Exercise Every Day

Japan’s Oldest People Do This 5-minute Exercise Every Day

There’s a Japanese proverb that says, “Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years.” Apparently, this is more than just a traditional saying in Japan.

Authors Héctor García and Francesc Miralles discovered that Japan has some of the world’s longest-living people and wanted to discover their secret to longevity. As part of their research, the authors traveled to Okinawa, Japan, one of five “blue zones,” which are regions in the world where people live to be 100 years old and over.

García and Miralles interviewed the Okinawa centenarians and found that physical activity was a way of life for them and a key aspect to their longevity. The authors asked them how they move, how they interact with others in their community, and how they find “ikigai” (pronounced ee-key-guy)—a Japanese concept referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose and a reason for living.

According to the authors, nearly everyone they interviewed kept in shape by practicing a morning routine called, “Radio Taiso” the most famous exercise in Japan that dates back to the 1920s. The five-minute exercise was first broadcast over the radio as a way to improve the health and physical fitness of the general public. The radio exercise has been a part of the Japanese culture ever since and is now available around the world on video.

“Even the residents of the nursing home we visited dedicated at least five minutes every day to it, though some did the exercises from their wheelchairs,” the authors wrote in their book, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.

The basic movements of the exercise consists of simply raising your arms above your head and bringing them down in a circular motion, according to the authors. “It might seem basic, but in our modern lives, we can spend days without raising our arms above our ears,” the authors wrote.

Radio Taiso Exercises

The Radio Taiso exercises are a fun way to promote physical activity for children and adults. These routines can also be done sitting down.

Exercise No. 1: Stretching

  • While breathing in, raise your arms up.
  • Breathe out and lower your arms down to your sides.

Repeat 2 times.

Purpose of the exercise: To maintain good posture and prepare the body to stretch into large movements during later exercises.

Exercise 2: Arms and Legs

  • With arms crossed in front of your chest, raise heels up.
  • Swing arms to the side and squat.
  • Swing arms back and cross in front of your chest, lower and raise heels.

Repeat 8 times

Purpose: To activate large leg muscles, promote blood circulation, and improve muscle strength.

Exercise 3: Arm Circles

  • Swing arms in a big circle from outside to inside.
  • Swing arms in opposite direction.

Repeat 4 times

Purpose: Rotating the arms in large circles helps to keep the shoulder joint flexible.

Exercise 4: Chest Stretches

  • With feet apart, swing your arms out to shoulder level.
  • Then cross arms and swing your arms out again, above the shoulders.

Repeat 4 times.

Purpose: Opening up the chest helps to correct posture and promote respiratory function.

Exercise 5: Side Stretches

  • Stretch to one side twice.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Repeat 2 times

Purpose: Bending the upper body to the side helps to maintain the flexibility of the spine to make lateral movements.

Exercise 6: Forward and Backward Bends

  • 1. Bend forward and bounce lightly three times.
  • 2. Then, bend backwards slightly

Repeat 2 times

Purpose: Stretching the back and abdomen helps to maintain the flexibility of the spine to make forward and backward movements.

Exercise 7: Body Twists

  • Twist four times from side to side.
  • Then do two big twists on the right side
  • Repeat doing two big twists on the left side.

Purpose: Twisting the body helps to stretch the muscles around the hips and maintain the flexibility of the spine to make rotational movements.

Exercise 8: Arm Stretches

  • Feet apart with hands on shoulders.
  • Reach up on tiptoe.
  • Return your arms back to your shoulders, then lower your arms.

Repeat 4 times
Purpose: Stretching the arms up and down quickly and powerfully helps to develop strength and instantaneous power.

Exercise 9: Forward Bends

  • Bend down to one side.
  • Stand up and open the arms out.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Repeat 2 times

Purpose: Bending the body downwards helps to develop muscle flexibility from the back to the back of the legs. By opening the chest, posture is corrected and respiratory function is improved.

Exercise 10: Circle the Body

  • Rotate your body and swing your arms in a large circle.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Repeat 2 times.

Purpose: Rotating the upper body in a large circle helps to increase the flexibility of the entire spine, especially its lower back portion.

Exercise 11: Jumps

  • Jump four times with legs together
  • Then do two star jumps.

Repeat 2 times

Now, repeat Exercise 2: Arms and Legs

Purpose: Making rhythmic jumps helps to promote blood circulation throughout the body and increase leg strength.

Exercise 12: Deep Breaths

  • Raise arms and breathe in.
  • Lower arms and breathe out.

Repeat 2 times

Purpose: Breathing deeply while moving the arms widely helps bring the body back to a normal state.

Authors: Choose the activity that’s best for you

García and Miralles also discovered that many Japanese never really retire but stay active and work at what they enjoy, “because they’ve found a real purpose in life—the happiness of always being busy.”

In addition to keeping active, the authors found another key to longevity is diet. For example, the Japanese and other people living in blue zones are known to eat traditionally healthy foods, such as beans, peas, fruits, vegetables, and a small amount of meat.

Yoga and tai chi are also common practices among older individuals in Japan. But “if you don’t like any of these disciplines, feel free to choose a practice that you love and that makes you move,” García and Miralles wrote.

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