By Miwa Uehara / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterOn a recent day, 36-year-old Mao posted an image of her toned abdominal muscles on Instagram. Adding a comment, she wrote, “I’ll finish my training before leaving home today!” The homemaker from Osaka Prefecture has more than 28,000 Instagram followers on her account, “mao.” She gets about 500 to 600 likes every day.
Mao is just one of a growing number of women who like to do sit-ups. She started training about three years ago after noticing she weighed as much as her husband after giving birth to two children.
She began forcing herself to do a 30-minute workout every day. “I found I could easily lose weight after building muscle tone,” Mao said. “It was also nice that I could do these workouts at home.”
In the hope of making her stomach flatter, Mao trained her muscles using various methods she found mainly on the internet. She also improved her dietary habits. Having lost 6 kilograms in several months, Mao said, “I now [feel comfortable] wearing a bikini.”
Mao has been posting the results of her training on Instagram since last year, and she’s continuously focused on her sit-ups and workouts. “Staying fit makes my family happy,” she said. “I will keep on working to reach the wonderful age of 40.”
More young women are throwing themselves into muscle-toning training or hard workouts. Terms such as kintore joshi, tranlated as muscle-training woman, have spread.
On an early morning in March, many women were seen at Reebok CrossFit Heart & Beauty gym in Minato Ward, Tokyo. CrossFit is a type of training that exercises every muscle using barbells and other gear, helping people in their daily lives.
Kanako Kono, 39, was among them, lifting a 27-kilogram barbell. She has been going to the gym at least four times a week for the past seven months, and the results are certainly starting to show on her arms and legs.
“I used to play soft tennis, but gained weight after I quit,” Kono said. She is determined to tone up and build up physical strength to help her with her job as a cook.
At six studios run by Jump one gym in Tokyo and another city, women are drawn to workout classes in which participants jump on a trampoline in time to dance music for 45 minutes. Trampolines are growing in popularity among women in their 20s to 40s because they are said to be good for toning.
Women are attracted to these workout trends because they are becoming increasingly health-conscious, especially considering the variety of duties they are engaged in — such as work, child rearing and nursing care — according to Akemi Natsuyama of the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living. “They increasingly think they have to make certain they can rely on themselves,” Natsuyama said.
A survey by the institute on 657 women found that workouts, muscle-building training and gymnastic exercises were the top answers to a question asking what they want to start this year. Those were followed by hobbies and cultural lessons, as well as dieting.
AYA, a CrossFit trainer and personal trainer for fashion models and actresses, said the visible results of working out are what makes it fun. “Completing the challenges and toning your body helps you to build confidence and be more positive,” she said.
Exercise is undoubtedly a good thing, but some women suffer physical and emotional damage after excessive dieting or overdoing their workouts to get fast results.
“It’s important to set goals and work out accordingly, after learning about nutrition and building basic physical strength,” said Rikkyo University Prof. Katsumi Sugiura.