You’ve heard all about ways to wake up in a way that will get you going in the morning after you’ve hopped out of bed—opening the shades to bright sunlight, meditation, a nice cup of hot coffee, a high-protein breakfast, and maybe some yoga moves to help you loosen up and get your blood flowing for the day ahead. But there are some other ways to improve your fitness, cardiovascular system, and flexibility—and you’re not alone. Here are five global fitness secrets that you might want to consider.
Japan. Japan’s national radio station plays 15 minutes of “radio exercise” music every morning, with cues guiding around 28 million people through a calisthenics routine. These Japanese “radio exercises” of organized group stretching have been around since the 1920s, and everyone from young students in school, to the elderly in parks, to corporate businessmen in the office, gather to stretch for increased blood flow, flexibility development, and to wake up the body. Dr. Oz suggests a couple of stretches to wake up, including the hippie—bending forward toward the floor, allowing one knee to bend, then the other—and the pecs flex—clasping your hands behind you as you open your chest and lift your hands as high as you can.
Netherlands. While only two percent of Americans cycle daily, half the population of Amsterdam cycles every day—and 85 percent ride a bike at least once a week. According to a Dutch academics research review published in 2012, the health benefits of bike riding outweigh the risks of accidents or exposure to air pollution. If it’s a viable option, consider a moderate-intensity bike ride to work—and if a sweaty arrival to the office isn’t an option, try doing afternoon or weekend errands on a bike instead of driving around.
Singapore. Some modern areas of Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan have smooth mosaic pebble paths to encourage barefoot walking for the purpose of reflexology—similar to a therapist putting pressure on points in the foot that correspond with organs in the body. According to a study in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, walking on cobblestones regularly can lower blood pressure and help with balance. Walking barefoot on river, beach or garden rocks for about 20 minutes can do the trick.
Norway. Many Norwegians embark on weekend adventures to the local woods by foot in the summer, and on cross-country skis in the winter. Instead of heading to the mall or movie theater this weekend, try going for a 30-minute or one hour hike on the trails instead. According to a study from the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Nordic poles can help you to burn more calories while sculpting your upper body.
Cuba. According to Yvonne Daniel, a dance anthropologist and professor emerita of dance and Afro-American studies at Smith College in Massachusetts, “it’s a part of the culture to respond physically to rhythm.” Cubans tend to dance anywhere they hear music playing, whether it’s at a wedding, at a club, or at home. Moving around to the rhythm of music at every opportunity can give you the opportunity to burn calories constantly, so next time you’ve got your radio on at home, go ahead and bust a few moves—or try ballroom dancing lessons and Zumba classes if you want to take it to the next level.
See a physician or other health care professional before beginning a fitness routine for the first time.
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