In the year 1920, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. (otherwise known as ‘MetLife’) started broadcasting 15 minute callisthenic exercises over the radio in an effort to raise the overall health and fitness of Americans in the US. However, it’s effects didn’t just stop there – Japanese officials who were visiting the country caught onto the idea and loved it so much that they decided to bring it all the way back to Japan. Thus, “Rajio Taiso”, or “Radio Exercises” was born.
Rajio Taiso literally translates to radio exercises and is practiced by many parts of the world to this very day. Mainly practiced by schools, corporations and groups in public spaces, the exercises involve a series of rhythmic movements that are simple enough that the elderly are able to participate, and vigorous enough to boost your heart rate to an energetic 140 beats per minute. However what’s most amazing about Rajio Taiso is how popular it became in Japan – ever since the NHK radio broadcasting service started airing these exercise programs in the 1928, Rajio Taiso has seen nearly 20 percent of the entire population (which estimates about 27 million) gather together every morning to kick start their workdays with a round of Japanese calisthenics .
There are many different types of Rajio Taiso exercises, and many variations have sprung out over the years. However, most Rajio Taiso revolves around the concept of dynamic stretching, which aims to stretch the muscle gently into its maximum range. For example, a martial artist who is practicing kicks would slowly swing a straight leg forward to reach maximum height before relaxing. Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching aims to gently stretch their muscles to their limit. Rajio Taiso also involves catchy tunes and retro variety-show style announcers egging listeners on, so if you’re feeling nostalgic, try watching one.
Rajio Taiso does have its fair share of controversy however; many disillusioned Japanese have accredited Rajio Taiso in the office as one of the instruments to losing their uniqueness and identity. While a handful of overseas-based Japanese still force their workers to participate in morning exercises, sometimes against their preference. This perhaps has led to the modern evolution of Rajio Taiso, with many practitioners advocating the mass exercise as a leisurely get together activity to have fun, play around, and foster cohesion, rather than a mandatory exercise routine. Perhaps fittingly, of the aforementioned 20% of the population that participate in Rajio Taijo – three quarters are elementary school children.
On the flipside however, Rajio Taiso has been accredited to fighting the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Rajio Taiso helps combat heart disease and type-2 diabetes and boosts energy level along with brain activity for the day. More importantly, Rajio Taiso allows people to get together and interact with one another, fostering ties and inculcating friendships.
However what is most fitting about these black and white era exercise routines is how it brought people together and encouraged them to exercise. Everywhere throughout the world companies are adopting their own versions of mass exercising and managers are slowly beginning to understand the real value of letting their employees exercise a little during their regular work routine. Even in Singapore, schools have implemented Aces day, which is essentially Rajio Taiso, and encourages even the teachers to participate.
Be it doing mass yoga in a sports hall, Tai Chi in a park, or even line dancing in a void deck, mass exercises do have to pay homage to Rajio Taiso in some ways. While we’re not going to be seeing our bosses asking us to do jumping jacks in the morning any time soon, we can certainly put in a good suggestion for getting together to do some exercises together. Why not put on a video of Rajio Taiso and have fun while trying to complete the exercises! After all, what’s the point of group exercises if you can’t have fun and do it together?