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March 14, 2022 5 min read
Each morning in the archipelago, numerous Japanese practice the same routine in order to start the day on the right foot. And we're not talking about coffee. 😉
Rajio taiso (or radio taiso) is a workout session that has been broadcast on the airwaves for almost a century. In a sedentary society where seniors represent almost a third of the population, physical exercise is more than indicated to stay healthy.
Discover how this gymnastics, accessible to all, has become an essential ritual in Japan for both the old and the young. Would you like to try?
Radio Taiso at the Kamo River. Source: kyotolove. kyoto
Rajio taiso (or radio calisthenics) is a series of exercises derived directly from a radio program and designed to gently awaken the body and tone and relax the muscles. "Rajio" means "radio" and "taiso" means "exercise". This Japanese gymnastics, accompanied by classical music (always the same) aims at maintaining good health while improving physical capacities and well-being. It is proven that regular exercise reduces cardiovascular risks and stress. Broadcast by NHK, the national broadcasting group, this Japanese program proposes a series of 13 exercises, intended for the general public. The radio gymnastics is broadcasted live on the radio, starting at 6:30 am. However, one can also follow the workout on TV or internet at different times of the day.
For three minutes, participants move in perfect unison to the rhythm of the piano and under the instructions of the coach. "Stretch your arms up", "bend your legs" .... The session consists of 13 easy-to-perform exercises. Arms, shoulders, legs, hips, back, pelvis... each part of the body and joints are mobilized by rotating, stretching and softening movements or small jumps. Radio taiso strengthens the muscles of the trunk, reduces back pain, improves blood circulation and cardio. Thus, it's a way to fight fatigue and feel more energetic while helping the body get up to face the day.
Anyone can practice radio taiso, whatever the age or physical condition of the person. This soft gymnastics is accessible to everyone. The exercises are easy to perform and can be done anywhere using simply the body weight. Even people with reduced mobility can perform the movements while sitting. It is important to know that in the archipelago, at least 1/4 of the population is over 65 years old. Therefore, aging in Japan implies various sanitary measures in order to preserve health, and radio taiso is one of these measures.
There are many variations of taiso, from simple fitness for all generations to muscle strengthening for youth. Many elderly people practice radio taiso in parks early in the morning in order to maintain good health. Stretching sessions are also proposed on a daily basis in large Japanese companies as the benefits are quite important. In addition, new programs have been created to attract the youngest members of the family, adapted to children and teenagers. Moreover, this gymnastics program is included in the physical education classes at school. Even during the vacations, children go to the playground to do taiso.
Pensioners, schoolchildren, office workers, laborers, cab drivers, flight attendants... it seems that everyone has adopted this morning ritual in Japan. Its popularity is such that radio taiso is part of the national culture. The proof... the Japanese people all know the moves inside out.
Radio Taiso in the 1930s. Source: Japancenter / Poster of Radio Taiso in 1932. Source: Ritsumeika University
It was an American insurance company that had the idea of introducing this radio sports routine in the 1920s. The aim was to preserve the health of employees and at the same time improve the company's image. This concept was imported to Japan a few years later, inspired by the fitness classes offered to American employees. In 1928, following the enthronement of Emperor Hirohito, the NHK group broadcast its first taiso radio program, "National Health Exercise". The idea was to unify the people by gathering them around a common activity. This program was also intended to keep the population in shape, especially Japanese soldiers.
After the Second World War, rajio taiso, which was considered too militaristic, was stopped by the occupation powers. Nevertheless, NHK radio was able to reintroduce its program in 1951 thanks to the support of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health. The exercises returned in a more playful form. Almost a century later, this radio gym is still very popular in Japan. For good reason, the morning routine has become ingrained in Japanese culture.
Radio Taiso these days through... Youtube!
Nearly 27 million Japanese people practice radio taiso at least twice a week. Whether at home, in the office, on a construction site or in a park, this activity has become part of their daily routine.
Large Japanese companies have understood the benefits of radio taiso for their employees and many of them have integrated it within their structure. Today, we live in a more than sedentary society where we spend hours sitting and working in front of a computer. However, the lack of physical activity can lead to metabolic problems, cardiovascular risks and sleep disorders which considerably influence the quality of life. In Japan, the average age of employees is higher than elsewhere. Therefore, it is in the interest of managers to keep their employees in shape so as to maintain productivity.
Following the pandemic, companies had to adapt themselves and the activity now takes place on ZOOM. While loneliness is felt, telecommuting required ... this daily meeting can bring together and motivate teams despite the distance. Special quarantine editions have also been put online to help people cope with their isolation. For some, these few gestures made together behind the screen have been more than essential to keep morale up.
If you wish to try this Japanese gymnastics, all you have to do is to go to the big parks of the archipelago first thing in the morning, for example the Ueno park which is very popular for the practice of radio taiso. You can also follow a session directly from the radio or television at home. The positive effects are felt immediately and intensify with regular practice. Before going to work, or during your lunch break, take 3 minutes to feel fit all day!
The exercises: http://www.nhk.or.jp/program/radio-taisou/pdf/radio.pdf
Cover image source: www.straitstimes.com
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