Takishima Mika has become something of a national hero in Japan and holds the accolade of being Japan’s oldest fitness instructor. She continues running, stretching and flexing at the age of 92, and stands as an inspiration to us all.
So what are her secrets, and what can we take from her habits and practices to help us make moves towards living with longevity?
As a fellow fitness instructor, I have often contemplated what my get-out route is going to be.
Do I still want to be teaching fitness in my 60s and beyond?
Or do I even think I will still be able to do as much fitness at that age?
Learning about Takishima’s story, I’m beginning to hope that I will. I LOVE my job and so why wouldn’t I want to keep on doing it for as long as I possibly can?
This is the driving force that the Japanese call ‘ikigai’ it’s having a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning, a reason for being.
Whilst most of society is waiting for retirement, the day that they can stop working, slow down and confine themselves to doing less. Yet the end of our working lives can also become associated with a loss of self-identity, self-worth and meaning to life.
So if you can find the balance of doing the work that you love, but bundle in with some of the time and financial freedom that retirement age can bring. Then maybe we can find that balance of longevity and maintaining a level of purpose and meaning to our later years of life.
We should not underestimate the power of keeping the mind active and also being inclusive in our communities when it comes to good health and longevity.
Age Is But A Number
Born in January 1931, Takishima has just turned 92. She believes age is but a number and she didn’t even start her fitness journey until the age of 65 and became an instructor herself at the age of 87.
Similar to Mike’s story (see below) proving that it is never too late to get started.
Takishima’s fitness journey began after taking a side remark from her husband about her being overweight and taking that to heart. She decided to join the gym and went to transform her body and went on to lose 15kg.
Not only is she looking lean and toned but she is also incredibly flexible and mobile too.
Takishima’s schedule is a busy one, it feels pretty extreme for a middle-aged person, never mind of someone who is 92 years old. But it’s one that is clearly working for her and remember, age is indeed just a number and she is proving that.
She says she only needs 3–4 hours of sleep. Going to bed at 11 pm and waking up at 4 am.
She says that the earlier your workouts started, the better the results will be.
- 4 am — The first workout she walks 4km, then runs 3km before walking backwards for 1km. She does it every day unless it rains and it takes her about 2 hours.
- 7 am Breakfast — Mackrel or grilled salmon with eggs, nato, tofu, kimchi and vegetables in rice
- Homework combined with stretching exercises
- Lunch- This is light after a hearty and balanced breakfast. She will just have a banana and a pro-biotic drink. This feels enough for her, if she over eats she will tend to want to sleep.
- The second half of the day is devoted to training — Either personal, group training or her online training. If she is not teaching she will do her own strength training.
- After working up a hunger she has a hearty dinner — Chicken soup, stew peaking cabbages, mushrooms, potatoes and carrots. She says she always eats a balanced diet and avoids artificial additives and preservatives. Though she also says she is not fanatical about it, if she wants some cake she will have it.
- After Dinner — she has her free time, but uses this time to educate herself and level up her skills such as computing and smartphone skills or attend English lessons.
- Before bed, she does some simple exercises and stretches.
Japan’s Many Centenarians
Japan is known as one of the blue zones. These are the areas of the world that have the highest concentration of centenarians
Japan has one of the largest amount of centenarians (person who has reached the age of 100), with an estimate of over 90,526 people who are over the age of 100 and is home to the oldest living woman who is 115 years old.
The number of centenarians is also continuing to rise each year.
So what have the Japanese got that helps them to live longer and in good health?
It’s believed that it can be attributed to ‘low mortality is mainly attributable to a low rate of obesity, low consumption of red meat, and high consumption of fish and plant foods such as soybeans and tea’ says Dr Martin Juneau of the cardiology unit in Montreal.
Japan has an obesity rate of just 4.3% compared to the 32.5% of the United states or 27.8% in the UK.
If we are to take anything from this incredible lady it’s to:
- Prioritise keeping active, mobile and strong
- Include a diet of natural foods, fish, vegetables and fermented foods.
- Have purpose and meaning in your life
- Immerse yourself in your community
Though Takishma’s schedule is intense, the key part is that she states she does not force herself to do any of this. She does it because it brings her pleasure.
That really is the secret shift in mindset that will allow anyone to go on a health journey is finding the things that will bring joy to what you are doing.
Side Note **** I do have to say, I would never recommend just 4 hours of sleep to anyone. I believe most people should be aiming for at least 7–9 hours for good health. Many studies show the damaging effects of lack of sleep on brain and physical health. There will always be outliers to any recommendations, but take any advice with your own knowledge of your own body in mind.
She wants to meet more people, and inspire them. She has set a goal of travelling through all 47 regions of Japan to inspire more people towards health and fitness.
Which now that her story is starting to go viral, I think she will inspire many more beyond the borders of Japan.
What do you think about this incredible woman? Could you maintain your fitness up until the age of 92?