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Hobby Could Help to Curb Medical Expenses (October 18, 2005)

Walkers on the Japan Three-Day March. Many foreigners took part. (Japan Walking Association)
Walking is enjoying newfound popularity, particularly among people in their forties and over, as a way of staying fit or losing weight that costs nothing and is easy to do. A variety of walking events are being held around the country, most notably the Japan Three-Day March, which is the largest walking event in all of Asia. And websites have been set up to let walkers compare notes on the distances they cover each day. With the market for walking shoes worth nearly ¥14 billion ($127 million at ¥110 to the dollar), businesses too have begun to take notice of the pastime's popularity.

Japan Walking Association
Each year about 50,000 people from 50 countries come together in Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, to take part in the Japan Three-Day March. The participants walk at their own pace, choosing how many of the three days and which of the five courses - ranging from five to 50 kilometers - they want to cover. The event is organized by the Japan Walking Association, which began life as the Aruke Aruke Club (Walk Walk Club) in October 1964, right after the end of the Tokyo Olympics. Founded by a group of college students and others, the club sought to promote walking at the national level. It was subsequently renamed the Nihon Aruke Aruke Association, and in 1978 it organized the first Japan Three-Day March. In 2000 it changed its name again, to the Japan Walking Association, and has since promoted a variety of events while overseeing the activities of local walking groups.

Online Walking Competitions
Walkers today can not only take part in actual events but also hook up with fellow enthusiasts online and compare notes on how far they walk each day. Omron Healthcare Co. runs a website for people who have purchased one of its pedometers. The site features monthly rankings of the top walkers, compiled on the basis of information on daily distances covered provided by subscribers. This and other similar sites play a valuable role in motivating walkers who are just getting started.

Walking is now being eyed as a means of keeping medical expenses down in Japan, which has a rapidly graying population. As part of a trial program funded by the central government and carried out by the city of Matsumoto City, Shinshu University, and other organizations in Nagano Prefecture, it was found that brisk walking with breaks under the supervision of a specialist and with a portable instrument that measures activity improves people's health. The gains translate into a ¥100,000 ($909) reduction in medical expenses per person each year. The government is now considering undertaking the program at a national level in the future.

Walking is set become a way of life for a growing number of people, as new events are organized and new walking products appear on the market.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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