Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tokyo: Health and Fitness

Although getting a stomach flu might seem like the best way to trim down post-holidays, I do not recommend it and there are far better ways to start the year in a healthy way.

Here is an article I wrote for Tokyo Weekender, about healthy living in Tokyo, but I'm sure it can also apply to anywhere else.

Pick up your copy in Tokyo 

Healthy Living in Tokyo: 10 tips

Having a little trouble zipping up those jeans after indulging on a few too many holiday treats? Follow these simple guidelines for a no-fail detox plan for the new year... and for a healthier Tokyo lifestyle throughout the year. 

1. Lace up your sneakers, and go for a run! It's free, and it's an excellent workout in this crisp weather. Great running paths can be found in Tokyo, such as Yoyogi Park and along Tama and Meguro Rivers. For beginners, the key is to work out in intervals and build up endurance, and I suggest trying the fun "Couch-to-5K" running plan:

2. Find a new hobby. While in Japan, why not try one of the traditional martial arts: judo, karate, aikido, kendo, just to name a few. If it's not your cup of tea, sign up for a yoga or dance class, or swim a few laps at the municipal swimming pool. Visit your ward's webpage to find the nearest community centres.

3. Eat healthy Japanese foods. Step away from heavy quantities of white rice, deep fried foods (pork cutlets tonkatsu, fried chickenkaraage, tempura), sugary red bean paste anko, and the plethora of available Kit Kat flavours. Instead, opt for brown or wild rice, fresh fish, add some grains and beans to your diet, stock up on protein-high tofu and delicious seasonal vegetables.

4. Quick and healthy picks. With conbini and vending machines on every street corner, it can be difficult to resist their assortment of tasty and high-calorie snacks and refreshments. Make wise choices, as convenience stores are full of healthy fare: salads, balanced bento boxes, sushi, frozen edamame, and winter dish oden.

5. (Less) bottoms up. If a non-drinking lifestyle doesn't sound fun, at least bring some small changes into your habits: stick to simple drinks such as wine and beer, ditch the sugar-high mixers, have your liquor on the rocks, and alternate every drink with a glass of water (and thank me later).

6. Japanese cuisine made easy! Try this healthy and simple avocado and tuna rice bowl: marinate thickly sliced maguro tuna into a mixture of soy sauce and wasabi paste, then place on top of steamed rice, along with avocado slices. Sprinkle shiso leaves and sesame seeds on top, pour some marinade, and enjoy a scrumptious meal.

7. Get some sleep. A restful night can significantly improve your health: it lowers stress levels, which in turn lowers your cravings for sweets and fattening foods, and gives you added energy to stay active. It is recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, and to keep a regular schedule throughout the week.

8. Stay active, and see Tokyo. Walk instead of riding the train for short distances, cycle to work and for leisure, and take fun day trips out and around Tokyo: sauntering at Yoyogi Park, exploring a new neighbourhood, hiking Mount Takao or Mount Fuji and the surrounding area, or sightseeing in Kamakura or Nikko.

9. Quench your thirst. Staying hydrated will keep you from munching on unnecessary snacks. Steer clear of soda and artificial juice: water, green tea, roasted barley tea, and sparkling water are far better choices. Try a zest of lemon, orange or yuzu to spruce up your water.

10. Hidden workouts. Shopping as cardio? Dancing until the early hours? Missing last train and walking home? More sex? Be creative!

by Vivian Morelli


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