Japan Is Jumping

by Alexandra Williams, MA on Apr 29, 2009

World Beat

Even in these tough economic times there is still a lot of optimism and opportunity in the Japanese fitness industry. “2009 is very tough financially for commercial fitness facilities, but I think that people will become even more conscious of their health, especially the benefits of exercise as they relate to stress management,” says Sachiko Tsurumi, president of Japan Fitness Association in Tokyo.

There is a wide range of activities to choose from, and Tsurumi sees this variety as a good sign. “People, especially women in the 30–40 age category, are showing more interest in movement-oriented, dynamic exercises again, especially dance-based prechoreographed programs such as Baila Baila, Ritmix and Zumba®. In a nod to [Japan’s] international outlook, exercise participants have embraced other types of prechoreographed programs from Argentina, New Zealand and the U.S., including conditioning, martial arts, yoga and Pilates. Freestyle group exercise is almost equal in popularity now to prechoreographed workouts, so Japanese instructors have a wide variety of teaching methods to choose from.”

Owing to space limitations, most Japanese fitness clubs do not have room for a lot of equipment, so although mat Pilates classes are easily found, there are few equipment-based Pilates group classes. This could also explain why stationary cycling is not quite as popular in Japan as in other countries, even though it was introduced in Japan more than 5 years ago. Some equipment-based classes that have recently attracted attention are Drums Alive® and stability ball workouts, which are particularly appealing to both men and women in their 40s. In the 30–40 age range, step is still going strong; however, walking remains the most popular form of exercise, partly due to the very active over-60 population.

Although the access to and types of equipment are about the same throughout the country, clubs in the cities offer more complex choreography than those in the towns. No matter how big the area, the gender split for group strength training classes is 50/50, and both men and women have a positive view about fitness, with health and physical appearance being the biggest motivating factors!

Since April 2008, the government has instituted a mandatory health check-up for all insured people over 40 and nonworking dependents as a response to the increase in early-stage lifestyle-related diseases. For example, nearly 7.4 million Japanese are diabetic, but only half of them have been examined and treated, so the government is trying to offer preventive care that includes education and advice on nutrition and exercise. While the government does not promote any specific fitness programs, there are large-scale health and fitness events, plus health-related ad campaigns to encourage more citizens to improve their fitness levels.

Perhaps due to the increased awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, people who have never exercised are now giving it a try at places such as the women-only Curves, and fitness is expected to continue to increase in popularity.

With a plethora of exercise options, both for participants and instructors, Tsurumi predicts a bright future for fitness in Japan. n

This column explores the activities and fitness trends of IDEA members around the world. Take a free vicarious trip every month by tuning in here.

Fitness Journal, Volume 6, Issue 5

Find the Perfect Job

More jobs, more applicants and more visits than any other fitness industry job board.

© 2009 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Alexandra Williams, MA

Alexandra Williams, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Alexandra Williams, MA, is a contributing editor for IDEA Fitness Journal and co-owner of the Fun & Fit blog, column and radio show with her twin sister. Certified since 1986, Alexandra currently teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and for Spectrum Clubs. She loves to write, emcee and edit, especially in a humorous fashion. She can be reached at fundandfitka@gmail.com.