Radio Calisthenics: Exercise the Japanese Way

Aside from eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, one way of keeping one’s mind and body in shape is by exercising. There are various forms of exercises that one can get into depending on one’s body build as well as one’s affinity to a certain type of sport. In Japan, there are several forms of exercise that one can incorporate into one’s routine. However, probably the most famous form of exercise in the Land of the Sun is none other than radio calisthenics.

What is Radio Calisthenics? 

By Shuichi Kodama from Tokyo, Japan (IMGP4826.JPG) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

More commonly known as rajio taiso in Japanese, which translates to “radio exercises,” radio calisthenics connotes to warm-up calisthenics that is well-known in countries like Mainland China, Taiwan, and, of course, Japan. This form of exercise is broadcast to music early in the morning through public NHK radio. Rajio taiso is no longer news in Japan.

An exercise routine that can be done every single day by a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, or an elderly, rajio taiso is rhythmical; thus, it is best done when accompanied by music that has a certain rhythm. The famous public broadcaster known as NHK has aired radio calisthenics on its radio channel for about 90 years now. These workouts are aired early morning each day though some routines are also aired at other times of the day.

Rajio taiso is synonymous to Japanese exercise that Japanese writer Murakami Haruki even incorporated this idea into one of his works. Entitled “Norwegian Wood,” the book contains a scene wherein it discusses the boisterous exercises of “Storm Trooper,” the roommate of Watanabe Toru, that he practices every day at the crack of dawn. Many people actually do this workout routines every single day in Japan. The NHK broadcast begins at 6:30 in the morning with several people moving to the beat either at home or in parks.

Regular rajio taiso events specially designed for children are often held during the summer holidays. Parents groups, as well as local municipal organizations, head these events. The young children who participate diligently can have their attendance card filled. A full attendance card would then entail the bearer gifts on the final day of the event such as snacks and stationery.

However, this once major seasonal event for school children has had a decrease in attendance. This may be attributed to the declining birthrate of the country as well as other factors such as noise concerns. Based on a survey conducted in the year 2014 by Benesse, an education material provider, more than half of elementary students at present attend the summer rajio taiso events.

Nonetheless, there is still one sector that continuously supports and enjoys radio calisthenics, and that is among the elderly. Older practitioners view radio calisthenics as an easy means to maintain their physical health despite old age. Several welfare facilities and local care services encourage the elderly to participate in rajio taiso due to its many health benefits.

Rajio taiso is popular not only in Japan but in other parts of the world as well. This includes Hawaii, Brazil, and Peru. It has become so popular that there is even a Spanish DVD version available in South America that features Japan International Cooperation Agency participants in radio calisthenics. Still, this form of exercise is most popular in the country of Japan. Until today, radio calisthenics maintains its appeal to Japanese people of all ages who are conscious of their health.

At present, radio calisthenics is still be utilized in schools as a warm-up exercise for physical education classes. In addition, it is also being used during sports day activities as well as warm-up exercises while building morale in some companies. This is because doing the routine together creates a sense of group unity. Furthermore, exercising help increase the level of energy of human bodies.

Recounting the History of Rajio Taiso in Japan

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First introduced to Japan in the year 1928, radio calisthenics was recognized as a commemoration of the coronation of Emperor Hirohito. The concept of rajio taiso originated from the US. It was in the 1920s when the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. sponsored radio calisthenics that lasted for 15 minutes in major cities in the States. The Japanese postal insurance division had visiting employees in the US at the time who brought samples back to their homeland.

The purpose of this exercise was to improve the overall physical health of Japanese soldiers during the 1930s as well as the 1940s. It was intended for soldiers not just at home in Japan but also overseas. Rajio taiso was also introduced to other pacific nations such as Indonesia, Taiwan, and Hong Kong during the colonization period of Japan. Fitness experts believe that the reason why radio calisthenics is still being done by the Japanese people until today is due to its completeness.

However, upon the defeat of Japan in the year 1945, the broadcast of radio calisthenics was banned by colonizers. This was due to the belief that the routine was too militaristic in nature. Various rewrites were made to this exercise routine to make it acceptable to the governing powers of Japan. In the year 1951, NHK radio reintroduced radio calisthenics. It was supported by the education ministry, health ministry, the Japanese Recreation Association, and the Japan Gymnastic Association.

Rajio taiso consists of two standard routines that are practiced by the Japanese people. Each standard routine lasts for about 3 minutes. Both standard routines incorporate whole-body aerobic exercises that have three purposes. These are to stretch the muscles of the body, to build the body’s core strength, and to improve balance.

Both radio and TV broadcasts of rajio taiso are provided by NHK every single day. These broadcasts are provided up to four times in a single day. There are more airing on weekdays than on weekends. These exercise programs are not limited to local listeners. NHK lets international listeners listen to radio calisthenics via NHK World Radio Japan. A television spinoff known as Minna no Taiso, also known as Everyone’s Exercises in English, even shows some seated variations of the routine to encourage people who have limited mobility to try radio calisthenics.

Health Benefits of Incorporating this Japanese Exercise


Incorporating radio calisthenics into one’s every routine has its own health benefits. For one thing, it makes people stretch one’s muscles early in the morning, which is definitely a great start to one’s day. What is great about radio calisthenics is that it is only a simple exercise. Regardless of age, any person can certainly do radio calisthenics. Even children do this as warm-up exercises and the elderly accomplish this exercise in public parks.

One of the purposes of radio calisthenics is to loosen up the muscles in the body. Incorporating this routine early in the morning is especially great for people who are trying to lose weight. Due to its simplicity, many people may think that radio calisthenics does not have that much effect on the body, but that is not true at all. Doing this early in the morning certainly has a positive effect on the body.

One benefit of radio calisthenics is the improvement of the flexibility of the body. This helps the body to be able to train even harder in other sports. The second benefit would be faster metabolism. This results in being able to burn more calories at a faster rate. This is beneficiary to people who need or want to be slim. The third benefit would be relieving stiff shoulders as well as pain in the lower back.

Another great thing about radio calisthenics is that it does not take up a lot of time to complete. Radio calisthenics is typically done in the parks throughout Japan during the summer season. However, doing it everyday would give the most positive effect on the body. Stretching the shoulder blades is great in the early morning as it boosts blood flow in the body. The routine also works well on children, adults, and older people.

Others exercises that are incorporated in the exercise method of radio calisthenics is dynamic stretching, breathing techniques, and light body movements. The techniques in deep breathing are done alongside the music that is played on the radio. Even though the music remains the same every single time, the rhythm of the music accompanied by the breathing techniques is just amazing.

Even though the workouts are quite simple, it is still possible to burn some calories by doing radio calisthenics. However, this depends on many factors such as one’s body build as well as the workout intensity. Combining radio calisthenics with other forms of exercise would be best in order to burn more calories. If one wants to be more flexible, it would be best to first start with radio calisthenics before moving on to yoga or pilates.

If one does not move his or her body enough, there is the probability of loss of muscle mass. This can result to pain in certain areas such as joints in the body. The probably of loss of muscle mass increases as one ages. Hence, it is important to continue moving and using one’s muscles. One simple way to maintain this is by doing radio calisthenics every morning. Making this a habit is important to slow down the effects of aging.

Radio calisthenics not only helps in improving the flexibility of the body but also in boosting blood circulation. Bad blood circulation may result to slow basal metabolism. Furthermore, the routine helps one move one’s joints. With constant movement, it is less likely for the muscles to stiffen up. This reduces the possibility of stiff shoulders as well as lower back pain. There have been stories about how radio calisthenics has been great as a contribution to the overall health of several people.

Where to Listen to Radio Calisthenics 

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Even though the routine exercises are simple and may be considered gentle, some people find radio calisthenics to be invigorating to the body. Public NHK radio broadcasts a series of prescribed exercises every single day at 6:30 in the morning. This broadcast is specially designed for group consumption. The workout routine also follows the rhythm of piano keys.

Various instructions are being made by a male voice. The male voice sounds like a friendly uncle who keeps on encouraging, supporting, and making sure that listeners continue to do radio calisthenics happily. There are three routines broadcasted by the radio. The first routine aims to increase the strength of the muscles of the body. The second routine is designed to be suitable for people of all ages. The third routine is specially designed for the elderly as well as for people who have limited mobility. Hence, the last routine may also be accomplished whilst seated.

The Radio Calisthenics program can be listened to nationwide through various channels such as NHK Radio 1, 2, Educational TV, and General TV. Radio 1 airs the program at 6:30 in the morning while Radio 2 airs three times every day except on Sundays. Should one find it difficult to tune in to the program due to various reason, one may opt to get the CD version. With this, one can now do radio calisthenics any time of the day.

It is said that around 20 percent of the population of the country incorporates radio calisthenics into their routines on a regular basis. This is considerably huge and great for Japan. Not only they are maintaining a healthy body but also working together to improve. Hence, it is not surprising that the Japanese people are generally healthier in comparison to their counterparts in the West.

For those who are interested in wholly supporting radio calisthenics in Japan, there is an event called the Annual Radio Calisthenics Circuit that one can attend and support. Held from the 20th of July to the 31st of August every year, this event is run by the Japan Post Insurance. Because this event is held during the summer break, more people are able to attend and support the cause. Hence, for those people who are skeptical about trying out extreme exercise routines, definitely check out radio calisthenics. Not only is this workout routine good for the body, it also helps in clearing the mind and the soul.