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How Japanese people stay fit, without ever visiting the gym

Japan has one of the highest rates of longevity (living till a ripe old age) and very low rates of obesity but Japanese people hardly ever go to the gym. It’s rare to find a Japanese person using their lunch break to pump iron as if their life depends on it, drowning in sweat jogging on a treadmill or using a step machine to “climb” Mount Everest.

So how do Japanese people stay fit?

The answer is walking! Japanese adults walk an average of 6,500 steps a day, with men in their 20s to 50s walking nearly 8,000 steps a day.

“Most Japanese citizens live in very walkable cities where public transportation is convenient, safe, and affordable, and not many households own cars. As a consequence, when most people go to work, they walk. When people go grocery shopping, they walk. When people are going out for dinner, they walk. It’s an activity adopted every day by every generation: walking is a part of daily life like breathing is.” Kaki Okumura

Let’s set the record straight: running may get the glory, but walking can hold it’s own when it comes to health benefits. In fact, not only is walking a much easier and more accessible form of exercise than running, but it’s also an Olympic sport!

Why walking is the most underrated exercise

Science shows that placing one foot in front of the other leads to some seriously impressive benefits, not only physical but also mental too.

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that those who walked regularly outdoors had significantly reduced cholesterol, a slower resting heart rate, more optimised blood pressure, less depression, and improved mental health! [1]

“Walking improves fitness, cardiac health, alleviates depression and fatigue, improves mood, creates less stress on joints and reduces pain, can prevent weight gain, reduce risk for cancer and chronic disease, improve endurance, circulation, and posture, and the list goes on…” Ann Green, Heptathlon World Athlete

Want more? Read our blog ‘The Surprising Benefits of Walking’ to discover some of the wonderous ways walking can support us.


  1. Hanson S and Jones A (2015). Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine.




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