Hello friend, hope you’ve had a relaxing weekend.
Welcome to Self-Mastery — a place for exploring timeless ideas to become the architect of your mind, create yourself, and do less, better.
Here in the UK, I’ve recently found myself being bombarded with images and ads about getting back into the gym. But while I loved lifting weights and having all those wonderful torture machines at my disposal before the pandemic, I’ve started to relish other forms of exercise instead.
Interestingly, millions of people in the UK have become newly interested in things like athleisure, home workouts, wellness apps and fitness technology, or just about any new health regime that’ll keep the pounds off through 2020. In fact, before COVID-19, the fitness/health club industry was doing the best it ever has since 2009.
Yet, if we move away from this heavily westernised culture, we’ll find a country that’s outstandingly an out-and-out leader in longevity and having startlingly low rates of obesity—the least amount high-income developed countries at 4.3%.
That country is Japan. And you might be surprised to know they don’t even have a notable workout culture there; athleisure isn’t a big thing, and few citizens are even members of a gym. Japanese citizens seldom use their lunch breaks for the gym as we do in the West—and those who do are usually viewed as some kind of exercise zealot.
Diving deeper, a Rakuten insight survey of 1000 Japanese citizens (aged 20-60) revealed that half of those questioned said they barely exercise—about once a month or not at all. Citing not enough time or simply because they don’t enjoy it all that much. Why? Most of them simply don’t see it as part of their lifestyle.
However, it’s not that they don’t exercise; it’s that their daily lifestyle incorporates physical work in a way that doesn’t feel like exercise at all.
What exercise looks like in Japan
Looking closer at what exercise means to Japanese people, exercise equals working out. It doesn’t have to take the form of going to a gym and lifting weights, or doing 10k runs every week. Namely, the best exercise they (and we) believe in is the one already interwoven into the lifestyle:
Japanese adults walk an average of 6500 steps a day, with men (aged 20-50) walking around 8000 steps and women (aged 20-50) around 7000 steps. Okinawans in particular are well-known for their walking culture, being remarkably mindful about incorporating movement into their daily habits. For example, Nagano, a rural prefecture in Japan, was able to flip its high stroke rate by weaving over 100 walking routes. Now, its citizens enjoy the highest rates of longevity in the country.
A tip for lifelong health
I love lifting weights and cycling, but I also understand that fitness culture can feel overwhelming for most people who are new to the fitness space and aren’t used to it. Too much of it can perpetuate cycles of dread and guilt. It can make you feel like reaching your fitness goals or a healthy weight is only attainable through dedicated weight lifting and making enough time for runs and a truly hard grind.
It’s not. Rather, what this culture shows is that like how healthy eating doesn’t need to mean ‘only salads’, healthful exercise doesn’t need to be about working out more.
The best fitness lifestyle for you may just need a touch of extra walking.
What’s on My Mind
Ego is about who is right. Truth is about what is right.
Choose what's right over who’s right.
“Many people see silence as isolation. Loneliness. But it’s busyness that detaches us from reality. Distance from people and things are vital to give us time to reflect. “Just remain in the centre, watching. And then forget you are there”, as Lao Tzu said.”
“People who take up exercise, especially for the first time, must rethink and re-create themselves to become who they want to be. This feels unbelievably good because your mindset completely changes as you become more optimistic, the way you see yourself improve as you learn to love yourself a lot more, even the way your cells die and replenish means that after a few years or so, the person you were no longer physically exists (except for in your mind).”
— How to Fall in Love with Exercise
Mastery is a mindset. We all know the world isn't fair. We don't all start from the same line, but we have the same responsibility to get what we want from life.
— Steph Smith
Favourite Thing This Week
If I ever create a zero-emissions transport company, I want it to look something like this. British van and bus maker Arrival recently announced a partnership with Uber to create an electric car that incentivises taxi drivers to switch to electric. I love the philosophy behind this, and I hope society sees more of this type of innovation come into fruition in the future.
Question of the Week
What were the major turning points in your life? Did you sense that they were important when they happened? How were you surprised?
P.S: It’s a bit of a ramble. But this week I’ve been utterly terrible. I’ve become tired and mentally drained, and it’s because I’ve been severely neglecting the need for rest. You know when you deeply enjoy what you do, but you then overdo it and wear yourself out? That’s me, hi. I’ve been reading a lot lately and trying to learn so much about growing this newsletter, improving my writing and guiding myself as a freelance writer, and I’ve been trying to feed pound after pound of information to my brain—even though it’s stuffed! I have felt wonderfully inspired and exhausted at the same time. But now, I’m forcing myself to donate more hours each week to rest and stillness. It’s a habit I’ve been dying to improve for months now, and I cannot ignore it. Sorry for the long note.
Have a fantastic and energy-filled week ahead.
Really enjoyed this read and it confirmed my theory of why the people in Japan are so healthy. The food is obviously a factor but when I was studying abroad there, it became obvious that nearly everyone was active. Because of jetlag, I woke up pretty early in the morning to workout around Asakusa and saw a lot of older people running and stretching around the temple. I even ran a couple miles to a park that had sirens signaling what looked like a community workout. Everyone in the park stopped and started doing an exercise that everyone seemed to mutually know. Not only is this morning culture there, but throughout the day you can see everyone was walking and using public transportation > just driving.
I knew then that exercise isn't just lifting weights or going on endurance runs. It's simply activity and movement.