It’s easy to get isolated in the walls of your own country and remain completely oblivious to what the rest of the world is doing on any given day. For instance, did you know that in Japan, the national radio station plays 15 minutes of exercise music each morning to encourage people to get up and move as part of their morning routine? How cool is that?
A recent article on Oprah.com inspired us to take a look at the fitness habits of people around the world and how we can learn from their healthy ways.
Netherlands: The Dutch love their bikes and not only use them for commuting, but also running errands and shopping around town. Can you believe that more than half the population of Amsterdam rides a bike daily, compared to less than two percent of Americans? How embarrassing! Especially considering biking has such great health benefits like increased leg strength and cardiovascular endurance. And with findings from a recent academic study deeming the benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks of exposure to pollution or accidents, all excuses are out the window. But if commuting on a bike isn’t feasible, take an evening bike ride with your family, or use your wheels to run local errands and explore new parts of your city.
Singapore: Ever thought of walking on rocks as a healthy, relaxing exercise? In Singapore they do, and even consider it an encourager to walk barefoot more often. Rock paths in this eastern country are modeled after the concepts of reflexology – the practice of applying pressure to points of the foot that are connected to various organs and regions of the body. Studies have also found frequent walking on rock paths can even reduce blood pressure and improve balance. You don’t have to travel to Singapore to get in on this activity- simply walk along the beach or over garden rocks to reap similar benefits.
Japan: Japan has had a habit of waking up with exercise since the 1920s with a radio fitness routine that includes cues that guide participants through the moves. And the best part about it is people do it together, which makes being active much more normal and enjoyable. The routine is also taught in schools, which gets kids acclimated to being active from an early age. Join the tradition with this instructional video. Or come up with your own routine or 15 minute yoga session to help wake you up on the healthy side of the bed.
Norway: Norwegians like to be adventurous, outdoor style. In fact, a typical family outing might be a day-long hike through the woods on foot or cross-country skis, depending on the season. Be inspired by our Norwegian friends to get outside and be more active. This weekend, rally up your family to go on a walk through the neighborhood, a local wildlife center, or a nearby hiking trail if you have access to it. The experience will not only be bonding, but also healthy for the whole family.
Cuba: Cubans seem to have a certain sway about them – a rhythm to their movement that seems so inherent and natural. Watch someone native to the country dance for just five minutes and you’ll notice this – and likely start to envy them. Dancing in Cuba is almost as natural as walking or breathing, and most people there are in constant movement – in the kitchen, at clubs, and especially at family gatherings. Since dancing is such a fun and easy way to stay active, establish a family dance night in your home. Or have a dance party with your friends. Just be sure to encourage those around you to let loose and be silly – even if for the sake of their health.