OTSU, Japan - Most Japanese are familiar with the exercises done to music on the radio every morning. Two routines are broadcast for these "radio gymnastic exercises" - No. 1 is suitable for all ages and No. 2 is for those seeking more vigorous workouts.
Although the No. 1 and No. 2 routines, and the set music for each, are well-known classics, there is a dynamic No. 3 routine, a phantom workout that only appeared for a short while during the postwar period. Thanks to the efforts of two university professors, it has now made a comeback after about 70 years.
"Open, close, open, close and jump," said Prof. Masaya Anzai of Ryukoku University as students jumped with their arms and legs outstretched in time to his calls and accompanied by a lyrical tune on the piano.
The moves look like interpretive dance, but this is part of the No. 3 radio gymnastics routine. The No. 3 routine was created along with the other two in 1946 and promoted nationwide via radio broadcasts, but the routines did not catch on amid the chaotic times after the war, and disappeared in about 1½ years.
The No. 1 routine was restarted in 1951, and the No. 2 routine in 1952.
No. 3 was re-created by Anzai, an expert in public hygiene, and Ryukoku University Prof. Tatsuki Inoue, who studies kinesiology, after they were asked two years ago by the Higashi-Omi city government to devise exercises for the physical and mental health of the city's residents.
The two professors focused on the radio gymnastic exercise No. 3 routine with the hope of bringing it back.
Although few archive materials were available, they managed to find a book published in 1979 by the Tokyo-based postal life insurance consumers organisation, which promotes radio gymnastics exercise. Titled "Atarashii asa ga kita - rajio taisou gozyu-nen no ayumi" (A new morning has come - the 50-year history of radio gymnastics exercise), the book includes a movement chart for the No. 3 routine.
Anzai and Inoue worked on the routine while following the chart, but simplified some of the moves to allow elderly and middle-aged people to do them safely.
They found the melody on a record and wrote down its musical score. After about eight months of work, the workout was completed at the end of 2013. They then prepared video footage and began promoting the No. 3 routine with the help of their students.
The unique, dynamic programme comprises 16 exercises that include 11 kinds of motion. It uses every part of the body, bending the knees while swinging your arms, for example, and jumping as high as possible.
The No. 3 routine has more kinetic intensity than No. 1 and No. 2. The cardiac rate of a 40-year-old woman when doing the No. 3 routine was between 110 and 150 - an effective range for an aerobic workout and higher than the current Nos. 1 and 2 routines.
"It's more effective to combine the No. 3 routine with walking and other exercises," Anzai said. "It's mentally refreshing as well."
The Taga town office in Shiga Prefecture introduced the No. 3 routine, and all the staff members exercise every morning before an assembly. A group of middle-aged and senior people in Fuchu, Tokyo, also do the No. 3 routine once or twice a week.
"This workout makes us feel like we're doing serious exercise, so people will continue doing it enthusiastically," said Yuji Ide, who disseminates the exercise at the Fuchu city's health-promoting centre.
Osaka-based AVC Networks Co., a group company of Panasonic Corp., has introduced the exercise at some of its offices since the end of last year, broadcasting a video during morning meetings and at lunchtime in their cafeterias.
A practical guide to radio gymnastic exercises complete with a DVD was released by Kadokawa Corp. for ¥1,000 (S$11.60) (excluding tax) in May, and a CD was released by Nippon Columbia Co. for ¥1,200 (excluding tax) in July.