The Tsukuba Health Fitness (THF) research group was launched in 1989. As it celebrates its 20th anniversary, Kiyoji Tanaka, the director and founder of the THF research group, describes what is important in promoting health among middle-aged and older adults with various chronic diseases. A translated summary of a newspaper article appearing in the Tokyo News (June 17, 2009) follows.
Tsukuba Health Fitness (THF) is a health promotion class that was started in 1990 by professor Kiyoji Tanaka, PhD (Institute of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Tsukuba). The class was developed specifically for people who have been, or currently are, patients in the hospital within which the THF studio is located. Currently twenty-three members, aged 70 years or older and who have medical histories such as coronary heart disease, cerebral vascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and osteoarthritis, thoroughly enjoy participating in fitness lessons up to three times a week. Researchers who have master or doctoral degrees in Tanaka’s laboratory at the University of Tsukuba are in charge of the exercise classes. In each session, THF offers fitness training activities such as aerobic and resistance exercises using a variety of exercise equipment. In addition, they offer recreational activities such as playing soft-volleyball and taking a walk when the weather is nice. These activities provide a great opportunity for social interaction among the participants.
Social and psychological benefits
Although his research studies on the participants have revealed many physiological effects on various coronary heart disease risk factors, Kiyoji Tanaka, the director and founder of THF, emphasizes the social and psychological benefits of the program. "A number of health clubs and fitness gyms managed by local administrations put too much emphasis on physiological or medical effects of exercise such as reductions in visceral fat and increases in bone mineral density, thereby consequently placing great pressure on both participants and exercise leaders," said Tanaka.