People in the US who are interested in staying in shape tend to favor running or working out at the gym to maintain fitness. But how do people in other parts of the world stay fit? And what might Americans learn from them? Following is a summary of how people in some other countries keep in shape.
The Netherlands and Scandinavia – The number one form of physical exercise in these countries is undoubtedly the bicycle. They use it to do everything from getting to and from work and school to shopping for groceries and cycling someone home from a date. There are dedicated bike lanes in every city, and many that stretch from one side of the country to the other. From small children to the elderly, everyone cycles as a matter of course, and their overall fitness shows how beneficial it is to their health.
China – You may have seen people in public parks around any major city (or any community with Chinese immigrants) performing a series slow, precise movements. Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts that is good for conditioning not only the body, but the mind as well. It is especially good for seniors, as it improves balance and overall mobility, increases strength in the legs and reduces stress.
India – Most people are surprised to learn that the physical practice of yoga as we know it is not actually ancient. Yoga in India was traditionally a mental and spiritual practice that incorporated special breathing techniques while in a sitting or standing posture. The type of exercise that comes to mind when we think of the word “yoga” (incorporating different postures called asanas, in combination with measured breathing) was not developed in India until the early 20th century. Nevertheless, yoga is now practiced very widely in India and all over the world as a way to promote overall mind-body fitness. It strengthens and stretches the muscles, increases flexibility and reduces stress.
Japan – Radio Taiso is a program of simple calisthenics set to music that is broadcast several times a day and is used by schools and many companies to help keep people fit. There are three official versions. One is a general fitness program for people of all ages, one is specifically designed to increase physical strength, and one is geared toward the elderly and disabled, who can perform the exercises while sitting down.
Brazil – An energetic form of dance that is taking off elsewhere in the world as well, Capoeira is a combination of dance, martial arts, acrobatics and music. It improves balance, coordination and rhythm while strengthening all the muscle groups. It will also improve your reflexes and help increase concentration.
Middle East – Belly dancing was originally developed as an exercise to aid women in childbirth. But belly dancing has many additional advantages. It particularly targets the “core” muscles, which are the ones responsible for keeping us upright and which have all too often become weakened by sitting for long hours at a desk. By strengthening your core muscles, you reduce your risk of suffering a back injury or chronic lower back pain.