As many of us know, the Japanese have longer life spans than most of the world’s population. Why? Well, on my recent trip to Japan I was able to witness some of these reasons first hand. Some are listed in my blog Want to live as long as the Japanese? 3 Health Secrets to Know Now (Part 1), and a few more are listed below.
1) Activity is built into their lives
People in Japan, particularly in Tokyo, do a lot of walking. A study published in 2010 showed that the average Japanese person walked an average of 2,000 more steps a day than an average American. All of this walking carries over to the subway as well. The subway stations have long runways (seriously) and flights upon flights stairs (with so many transit lines you have to go pretty far underground). Biking is popular, too, as the streets and sidewalks are designed for sharing with cyclists.
Undoubtedly, all of this regular, daily activity contributes to a healthy waistline, increased energy and good circulation – all without stepping into a gym! I wrote about this concept – formally called NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) in my post Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. Read that blog for more detail on how you can make some easy changes to integrate more activity into your day.
2.) Regular visits to an Onsen.
Because Japan is a volcanic archipelago, it has many spring water sights that are open to the public. They’re called onsens and they’re known to be mineral rich and healing to the body. I frequented several onsens while in Japan, and I can honestly tell you that they’re an absolute must-do while visiting.
On top of just being extremely relaxing, Dr. Yuko Agishi, an expert on the benefits of onsens, believes that an onsen’s mineral rich waters have healing powers. They can help people recover from certain surgeries, and alleviate symptoms associated with rheumatism, neuralgia, hypertension and skin diseases. Although we don’t have true onsens in North America, it’s worth taking regular trips to the spa to de-stress. Also see if there might be some healing waters in your area – here’s a link to Canada’s top spring sight and here’s one for sights in the United States.
3 ) Belief in something bigger than themselves
Dan Buettner covered the longest living societies in the world in his book Blue Zones, and to no surprise, Okinawa, Japan was in his book. One of the things Buettner noticed in Japanese societies that was common with other long-living societies was the belief in something bigger than themselves. In Japan, shrines and temples are all over the country (even in the busiest, most hectic neighborhoods in Tokyo). Japanese people have immense respect for their ancestors and take part in daily spiritual rituals to communicate with many different gods and goddesses.
Whether you are religious or not, a little spirituality in one’s life is a good thing for stress, mental health, wellbeing and – clearly – longevity. Meditating, praying, practicing yoga, or any spiritual ritual that means something to you, can have a positive impact on your health.
These are only a few of the many things that the Japanese do really well for health and longevity. Hopefully between Part 1 and Part 2 you’ve found something inspiring that you can integrate into your life to bring increased health and wellbeing.