Staying healthy in Japan

Features Health - March 17th, 1989

by Elyse M. Rogers

Exercising in & out of the home

An exercise program is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle, and there can be many types of such programs. If you’re a good cross-country skier and love the outdoors, that’s excellent exercise—one of the best there is. However, it does lake some skill, and it takes a couple of things that are rare in Tokyo—lots of snow and miles of trails.

But not to worry. If cross-­country skiing is your thing, there are now indoor machines that give you the exact kind of workout you’d get skiing through Michigan hardwoods within the “comfort of your own home.” You may miss the sting of wet snow against your face and the majesty of white-capped mountains, but your cardiovascular system won’t even notice the difference.

OTHER TYPES OF EXERCISE THAT MACHINES MIMIC

The cross-country skiing ma­chine is not the only machine capable of imitating outdoor sports. Let’s look at some of the other types of popular (and cardiovacularly sound) exer­cises:

Jogging. Jogging outdoors is both good exercise and inexpensive. You don’t need any special equipment, no special skill, and you can do it any season of the year. For the “training” or “aerobic” effect all fitness experts talk about, you should jog three-to-four times a week for a distance of about three miles each time. The best schedule includes one rest day between each jogging day, or else injuries can result.

In Tokyo jogging has a few hazards such as auto exhaust inhalation, traffic and obstacles on the “sidewalk” (such as the yaoya’s display of apples, or the kusuriya’s toilet-paper carou­sel). It’s best to choose your time and place carefully, such as early in the morning, and on back streets or in parks.

For those who love jogging or running but prefer to have perfect terrain and a totally flexible schedule, there are treadmills available for the utility room or even the living room. And if you haven’t seen a jet-age treadmill yet, let me assure you they are a far cry from the old types. Today’s treadmills come complete with computer programs that can actually mimic your favorite course by giving you hills and valleys and a precisely-meas­ured route. And a display will let you know what speed you’re going, how many miles you’ve traveled and the time that’s elapsed.

Bicycling. Most of us have ridden a bicycle at least during our teens, and many of us still enjoy pedaling. In Tokyo bicy­cling can be a good means of transportation, particularly if you can use the back streets that are less congested. Or, if you are a cycle enthusiast, you can get up early on Sunday mornings and have the whole town to yourself.

My favorite route is through the Ginza on Sundays about 5:30 a.m. (It’s a favorite, folks, but I’ll confess I don’t do it all that often.) When you can coast past Mitsukoshi and pedal in front of Kabuki-za with a handful of cars on the roads and almost no people in sight.

As you might expect, for the same training effect that you’d get jogging you must cycle farther. A cruising speed of about 15 miles per hour (about 25 kph) is what it will take, and riding about five miles in 20 minutes, Because there is no pounding involved in cycling (in jogging or running your foot pounds the pavement and there is moderate stress on the spine and long bones of the body), you can cycle more days in the week—but still, four or five is adequate.

For the person who finds cycling the best type of exer­cise for whatever reason, he/she may find an indoor exercise bike a good purchase. These bikes are stationary ones, take up less space than a treadmill and can be used during those times you wouldn’t go cruising down Aoyama Dori. Many indoor bikes have optional reading stands for holding a book or magazine for reading while pedaling.

You can adjust the resistance level too, so it’s like pedaling up a hill, change the seat level easily so that more than one family member can use it and get some kind of electronic display that shows time, mile­age and distance.

Ed and I recently bought an exercise bike and plunked it in the corner of the bedroom where it’s close to the TV, So, as a change from jogging (or when it’s pouring or too dark) we can do our scheduled work­out while catching up on the nightly news or watching a morning drama. And, of course, at the same time we can get our fill of Japanese commer­cials.

Rowing. I’m no sure how many of us would choose rowing as a “favorite sport” even though we might enjoy working the oars on the moat at Akasaka, or power­ing a small, flat-bottom on some lake during vacation, but it is good exercise.

Rowing machines are popular indoors not only because they provide a good workout, but because they lend to be the least expensive workout ma­chine available.

• There are many other types of machines and equipment: a climbing machine (you can scale Fuji-san, at least in steps climbed), and various kinds of workout tables, weight-lifting machines for different muscles, etc.

GETTING INTO THE PROGRAM

Two kinds of people tend to buy home exercise equipment:

1) those who have an exercise program and wish to continue it or add to its flexibility,

and

2) those who do not have a program but feel this would be a good place to start.

If you’re new to exercise, or if you’ve been in a program but wonder if it’s right for you, you might consider some type of professional work-up. Steve Terada is an Exercise Specialist and currently assistant athletic director at the Tokyo American Club. In his work Steve sets up individual programs for TAC members and helps TECH-SPORTS design fitness pro­grams for those who purchase exercise equipment. (See below* for details on TECHSPORTS’ products.)

Steve explains that he sched­ules an interview and asks a battery of questions before working up each individual exercise program. Some of the questions he asks regarding physical capability: Do you have any physical limitations or injuries? Are you on any medication? Do you have heart or circulatory problems? Do you have high or low blood pres­sure?

Then he ascertains the type of program desired with ques­tions such as: How many work­outs a week are you planning? Number of minutes per work­out? What other physical acti­vities will be part of the program (swimming, jogging, etc.)? Finally he asks about goals: What arc you trying to achieve in the way of improved muscular strength, loss of body fat, cardiovascular health, etc.?

In addition to personal ques­tions. Steve is working on honing a process whereby he can use electronic devices for measuring body composition. This would give data such as percent of body fat and allow ongoing testing to measure progress toward a more ideal body fat ratio. Although there is no established standard for recommended body fat, there are some tables many experts in the health field use. Accord­ing to one table the minimum body fat percentage for a 40-44 age male should be six, with a maximum of 20.5. For a woman age 40-44, a mini­mum of nine percent and maximum of 25,4 body is re­commended.

The program Steve sets up is a varied one that should motivate but not bore the exer­ciser. For someone new to exercise, the program will be a progressive one that begins gradually and works up to a more vigorous program.

Remember that it’s always wise to be prudent when start­ing or upgrading an exercise program. Unless you have been exercising regularly and/or are young and in very good health, you should take it easy and slowly. Don’t try to get to top performance in a day or even a week or two. Better to take a few months to work your way up to an ideal program.

Also, if you have any medi­cal problems (or you suspect any) that might keep you from a full exercise program or could be  aggravated by an exercise program, you should see your physician, get a physical exam and discuss your program goals with him/her. Steve Terada, and other Exercise Specialists are well-trained but are not physicians and don’t claim to be. They’d be the first to suggest you have medical clearance before you begin any program.

BUYING HOME EXERCISE EQUIPMENT

Many of the department stores and sports-equipment stores in Tokyo now stock some home exercise equipment and some is available through mail­order, so you might want to check around to sec the differ­ent types. Make sure, however, that any equipment you plan to buy is durable enough to stand up under continuous use.

If you’d like to buy good, solid equipment from American manufacturers, it’s   available through Mark McCorckle at TECHSPORTS. Precor, Soloflex and Nordic are all wellknown names, and their equipment has a good reputation for quality and endurance. In fact local athletic clubs, such as the Tokyo  American  Club,  stock such equipment.

TECHSPORTS in Tokyo has the following items that might be of interest:

1) Precor precision fit­ness equipment—rowers, cy­cles, skiers, stair climbers and treadmills.

2) Soloflex strength ma­chine and accessories.

3) Nordic Track ski machine.

4) Concept II rowing machine.

5) Sportswear and shoes from Nike, Reebok, and Rockport.

6) TECHSPORTS per­sonalized exercise programs.

7) Soloflex workout video (¥1,500).

8) Precor workout menu (¥1,500).

Remember this is equipment built to last (it would have to be durable to stand up under rigorous health club use), so it’s got a price tag to match. For example, the Precor ski machine is about ¥185,500, while the Nordic Track runs about ¥150,000 in Japan.

Call or write Mark for fur­ther information. He’d be happy to talk with you and give you complete information and prices on all the equipment with no obligation. Mark Mc­Corckle, TECHSPORTS, Keiken Bldg., 1-9-27 Kasuga, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112. Phone 814-7244.