Summer in Japan is the perfect time to try out new sports or outdoor activities. With months of cloudless blue skies and longer days, it’s a great opportunity to finally get on the fitness bandwagon and try to lose a bit of weight. While the obvious answer is to join a gym or fitness center, there are other ways to stay fit and active this season.
So what can we do here in Japan to improve our fitness, lose a bit of weight and feel healthier during the Japanese summer? Here are five ideas for you to consider that use the time of year, natural environment as well as local sports and activities to help you get in shape and feel healthier.
1. Go for a walk (or run)
Walking is the easiest, cheapest and possibly least stressful way to lose weight in a relatively short space of time. Japanese cities are surprisingly easy to walk around. Despite the high population densities and busy roads, even the largest metropolitan areas like Tokyo and Osaka have plenty of green spaces—whether parks or along the rivers and canals that cut through them.
The best places to enjoy a good walk are riverside areas, such as the banks of the Edogawa or Tamagawa in Tokyo or the Nakanoshima waterfront district in Osaka. There’s something about the cool breeze of the riverside that makes a summer walk so much more pleasurable and more apt to keep you moving.
Walking in the intense late-summer heat of Japan can be something of a health hazard though, so you need to be careful.
If you don’t have time for a full walk during your day then try this simple step: On your way home from work, try getting off the train or bus one or two stops early. Just that extra 15 or 20-minute walk per day will make a big difference to your health.
2. Take up a Japanese activity
This one isn’t for the faint of heart, but nothing beats doing kendo or another Japanese martial art in the 35-degree summer heat of Japan! The combination of an intense physical workout coupled with the weight and heat of armor, helmet and uniforms (some of which can weigh as much as four or five kilograms) is drastic.
You may also want to try karate, judo, jujitsu, aikido, or kickboxing! The other thing about kendo and other Japanese martial arts is that they provide an entire whole body workout. Lifting and striking with bamboo swords works the chest, arm and shoulder muscles, but posture and a correct stance are also important elements, ensuring an equally engaging workout for your back, legs and core.
You’ll sweat—a lot. But ultimately, doing these types of sports in the summer will help you lose weight quickly and also test your own stamina, mental endurance and concentration limits.
3. Eliminate red meat and starch from your diet
The traditional Japanese diet has long been built on fish, vegetables and rice. In order to maintain a calorie deficit, avoid eating excessive amounts of white rice (it’s heavy and has minimal nutritional value, like white bread).
Opt for more servings of vegetables and fish—especially when they are steamed, boiled or served raw, as is often the case in Japanese cooking—are perfect staples around which to build a low-calorie, high-energy diet. On top of that, cooking these easily found and prepared meals for yourself will save a lot of money during the summer, too.
4. Stay hydrated with water or tea
Not only will drinking more liquids help fight against possible heatstroke or fatigue, it can also help keep your appetite down and help your immune system work better. If you find just plain old water boring to drink then why not try several varieties of teas that are available in Japan? In summer, Barley tea or 麦茶 (mugi cha) is a common alternative to water. Green tea or 紅茶 (kou cha) is said to be able to boost metabolism due to its caffeine content.
A lot of ions are lost to sweat. It’s important to replenish them with a tall glass of a drink of your choice. Whichever tea or drink you choose, make sure you stay hydrated as summers in Japan are absolutely brutal.
5. Get high-quality sleep
Getting a full eight hours of sleep is something that can help manage your appetite. There have been studies that emphasize how sleeping enough can do wonders for the body, weight loss included. Summer nights in Japan however may make it a bit difficult to fall asleep easily due to the humidity and discomfort that come with the hellish temperature.
To remedy this, try checking out some specially made bed sheets and pillowcases from brands like Nitori that have cooling fabric technology that can help you sleep through the heat more comfortably. Also, don’t be afraid to visit a sleep clinic if things get really bad.
Overall, whatever you do in Japan this summer—get outside as much as you can. Take advantage of the sun’s vast stores of vitamin D that boost our immune system, make us feel happier and more energetic and help provide ample produce. It goes to show you that summer is just generally good for you!
Do you have some favorite summer activities to help you stay fit and healthy during the Japanese summer? Let us know in the comments!