Increased focus on sport benefits for public health

19 Nov 2020

The importance of physical education remains high in Japan through various school curriculums and sports clubs that were established both before and following Tokyo 1964.

In 1960, the year after the Olympic Games were awarded to Tokyo, Japan’s then minister of education published a document aimed at using sport to improve the nation’s health and nutritional standards. Titled the “Enhancement of Health and Physical Fitness for Citizens, in particular Youth, in the Face of Tokyo Olympic Games”, it established policy directions which are still evident in Japan’s approach to sport and physical education.

Japanese children in particular have gone on to benefit from these policies. A new national curriculum for physical education was implemented in schools ahead of Tokyo 1964 which has continued to focus on promoting fitness-oriented activities and lifelong sports in the decades following the Games. A research study from 2018 found Japanese children and youth to have favourable levels of organised sports participation, physical fitness and weight status compared to similar high-income nations. In particular, 86 per cent of students were found to regularly commute actively to school either by walking or cycling, substantially higher than most other high-income countries with the exception of the Netherlands.

A long-term health benefit of Tokyo 1964 and the public health initiatives it spawned has been seen in those who directly witnessed the Games. In 2016, the Japanese National Sport-Life Survey found that the generations who directly experienced Tokyo 1964 participated in sport more frequently than other generations.

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