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“Takimika”, the 90-year-old fitness instructor

Japan’s life expectancy is among the best in the world, as evidenced by the country’s 80,000 centenarians. Older people are also increasingly active, like Takishima Mika, or “Takimika,” a cheerful fitness instructor who celebrated her 90th birthday on January 15th. In this article, Takishima shares the secrets of her vitality.

It was a throwaway comment from her husband that prompted the then 65-year-old Takishima Mika to take an interest in fitness.

“Back then I was more than a little plump, my pant size was double what it is now. And yet, I stubbornly refused to admit that I was overweight. One day, however, my husband commented on my weight, and that’s when I decided to join a gym, ”says Takishima.

A full-time housewife, “Takimika” had never exercised in her life, but immediately caught the fitness virus, successfully losing 15 kilograms over the next five years.

Octogenarian debut

With Takishima more than reaching her initial goal of losing weight, she continued to take gym classes, embarking on a core toning workout with a personal trainer at the age of 79. Back then, Takishima never guessed that eight years later her trainer would make her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“You are taking the lesson today.”

Out of the blue, Nakasawa Tomoharu, trainer of Takishima and owner and general manager of Power Aging, the gym where she trains, made Takishima an instructor.

“Every inch of Takishima’s body exudes the love of training. She is also an excellent speaker. The more I worked with her, the more I felt it was a waste to bring her here only as a student, which is why I half-forced her into the role of a fitness instructor. Takishima resisted at first, but his achievements exceeded our expectations, ”recalls Nakasawa.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Takishima’s schedule is currently limited to a 60-minute per month online course, in which she teaches a group of 20 men and women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. basic aerobic and workout routines that she designed herself. Her extraordinarily young appearance makes her advice all the more compelling, as her expressive face and voice steals the hearts of her students.

Takishima Mika (top left) and his students in an online lesson.
Takishima Mika (top left) and his students in an online lesson.

Takishima started exercising at 65 and eventually became a fitness instructor at 87. His life embodies his philosophy that age is just a number. You’re never too old to start anything, she says.

A busy routine

Takishima’s day is busy. Requiring only three or four hours of sleep, she goes to bed at 11:00 p.m. and wakes up just after 3:00 a.m. She gets up while it is still dark to go for a walk and jog.

“I leave home around four in the morning, walk four kilometers, then do three more. Finally, I walk a kilometer back. I do this every day, as long as it doesn’t rain. It takes about two hours, but it feels like it’s over in no time.

Takishima has breakfast just after 7:00 a.m. at which time she has been training well.

“I grill mackerel or salmon with nattō, eggs, tofu, kimchi and nukazuke pickles. I never skip my two packs of natto, ”she says.

After this balanced breakfast, rich in proteins and fermented foods, she does the housework and sometimes does some stretching. Even while watching TV, Takishima is sitting with her back perfectly straight and her stomach tucked in. She even makes a point of tiptoeing around the house. But she doesn’t force herself to do all of this – on the contrary, Takishima was so pleased with the results of these exercises that they are now becoming second nature.

Training and more training

Takishima says she only has a light lunch. “I have a banana, followed by a Yakult probiotic drink. That’s all. I am sleepy if I eat too much.

That’s all the lunch she needs, maybe because of her generous breakfast, she notes. His afternoon is time for an intense workout. This sometimes includes a one-on-one lesson with Nakasawa and sometimes involves Takishima taking an online lesson herself. Whether or not she has a class that day, Takishima doesn’t put on music while she works out, but instead focuses on her stretches followed by her weight training. This daily session takes at least two hours, she says.

At dinner time, Takishima is ready to eat again. She is preparing a hearty dinner, preceded by wine.

“I like red wine and white wine. After my glasses of wine, I take my time to savor my dinner. I make a lot of chicken and vegetable soup. I simmer Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, konnyaku, and the like until tender, then add the chicken. I love the tasty juice you get from the vegetables. I also like seasonal vegetables. In winter, I add a lot of spring onions.

Even before getting in shape, Takishima always ate three balanced meals a day and avoided artificial additives and preservatives. In other words, she doesn’t impose any strict dietary restrictions on herself, eating as much as she wants of what she likes.

“If I want cake, I have cake. Sometimes I decide to eat only half and save the rest for the next day. I end up eating at all, however.

Takishima’s philosophy of following instinct rather than starving doesn’t end with food. After dinner, she finally has some time to herself, but hardly spends time lounging. Instead, she works on the training exercises assigned by Nakasawa, honed her smartphone and computer skills, and takes classes to perfect her English.

Takishima says her lifestyle did not spring from a sense of obligation, but from a single motivation: the desire to make as many friends as possible from all over the world.

Japan’s oldest fitness instructor

“I only got into fitness because I wanted to lose weight. Once I had done that, however, I decided I wanted to have a nice, tight bottom like a Brazilian woman. Then, once that was done, I decided that I wanted wide shoulders and a narrow waist. Next thing I knew, I was teaching aerobics classes. I never dreamed that my life would unfold like this.

But Japan’s oldest fitness instructor has a goal in mind. One day, Takishima received a message from someone who had seen one of his videos. The writer said she wished she was dead, but after seeing how healthy and happy Takishima was, her attitude changed and now she is living her life in a positive way.

“When I realized that what I was doing could help reduce the number of recluse and elderly people who die alone, I made it a goal to visit all forty-seven prefectures in Japan, holding training demonstrations. People who attend my events do not have to participate on site – if my demonstration inspires them, they will be motivated to get in shape on their own. My goal is to get everyone fit and healthy and to still be a fitness instructor when I turn 100 years old.

Some might see this goal as impossible, but once you see Takishima’s carefree smile, the idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched. She herself testifies to the fact that age is just a number.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo: Takishima Mika. Photograph by Yamamoto Raita.)

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