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Singing Your Way to Slimness

July 23, 1999

With the arrival of sticky summer months and lighter, more revealing attire, Japanese office workers become more conscious of their physical appearance, especially if they are starting to bulge around the waistline. Some may try to slim down by reducing their intake of food; others attempt to stay trim through exercise, climbing the stairs in their office instead of taking the elevator. Now a company has come up with a new formula for helping these individuals enjoy themselves while burning off the excess weight--the "karaoke diet."

Tested Formula
On June 1 Daiichikosho Co. began marketing new calorie-counting software to some 40,000 users of its karaoke song-broadcasting service around Japan. At the end of each karaoke performance, the software automatically shows on screen the approximate number of calories the singer burned while belting out the song.

To its credit, the company did not merely pull the calorie consumption figures for each song out of a hat. It asked local fitness clubs and university researchers to conduct scientific tests. Taking into consideration such factors as the volume and pitch of the singer's voice and the tempo and length of the song, a formula was developed by which calorie expenditure could be calculated.

According to this formula, singing one song tends to burn from 10 to 20 kilocalories, with a margin of error of about plus or minus 5 kcal. Naturally, the longer and livelier one sings the more calories are burned.

A comparison of songs shows a clear correlation between lively pop melodies and high calorie use. For example, singing rhythm and blues or rock and roll songs burns away more calories than crooning ballads. Of course, even for the same song, expenditure will vary according to the energy put into the tune by the individual singer. The difference apparently measures up to 5 kcal. And indeed, not many performers may be able to work up the stamina to emulate the likes of the rock group Mr. Children, whose lively "Namonaki uta" (Song with No Name) can burn off a whopping 20.6 kcal. Namie Amuro's "Can you Celebrate?" is not far behind at 16.8 kcal, which probably explains why Ms. Amuro, an animated stage performer, is able to maintain her svelte figure.

Enka (Japanese ballads) demonstrate a wide range of statistics, making it impossible to generalize. A vigorous rendition of Hibari Misora's philosophical, autobiographical "Kawa no nagare no yo ni" (Like the Flow of a River) promises an energy expenditure of an estimated 13.6 kcal. But Sayuri Ishikawa's "Tsugaru Kaikyo fuyu geshiki" (Winter View of the Tsugaru Strait) will burn off just 7.8 kcal.

Unfortunately, the type of slow, romantic tunes often preferred by middle-aged males appear to afford minimal exercise. For instance, Yujiro Ishihara's classic "Yogiri yo, konya mo arigato" (Thanks Again, Night Fog, for This Evening) would only consume 8.8 kcal.

Dieting in English
As for English-language songs, a rendition of the Carpenter's "Yesterday Once More" uses 10.1 kcal; the Beatles' "Let It Be" burns up 11.4 kcal; and for those really determined to work off the excess weight, the Frank Sinatra classic "My Way" should result in the dissipation of 15.6 kcal. Of course, this does not take into consideration differences between Japanese and native speakers of English, and it is even possible that consumption of calories may be higher for the former--particularly those who find that singing in a foreign language requires extra concentration and effort.

Considering that a man weighing 75 kilograms (165 lbs) will burn up approximately 162 kilocalories in the course of a 20-minute walk, karaoke may not be an ideal weight loss program, point out some skeptics. According to one doctor, karaoke might even be countereffective for dieting. After all, when they finish a song, people tend to want another glass of beer and more snacks, which immediately restore the calories that have been lost through singing--and maybe add some more. But nevertheless, it might be worth a try--if not for the weight-loss benefits, then at least for the stress reduction.

Trends in JapanEdited 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.