The Valuable Exercise Advice I Never Learned in P.E. Class

A path to a young and limber body, for any beginner

Illustrations by Kaki Okumura.

I was talking to my grandfather when I brought up how he had pretty good posture and mobility for someone quite old. He’s still walking around, working, climbing stairs, and sitting up straight. He doesn’t have any back, knee, or hip problems. Just the other week we went on a 5km walk together — not bad for 85 years old.

With my comment he smiled and nodded proudly, “It’s because of Makko Ho.”

I was a bit skeptical, but decided to give the practice a chance.

The man who regained his mobility through simple stretching

Makko Ho is a stretching system developed by a Japanese man named Mr. Wataru Nagai, who once suffered a stroke and found his body paralyzed. His doctors said he most likely wouldn’t regain his mobility, but he decided to work on his rehabilitation through stretches based on Buddhist poses — his father was a monk — and called it Makko Ho. It worked.

Based on his own experience he ended up writing a book, and the exercise quickly found popularity among the Japanese elderly and those interested in anti-aging calisthenics. It’s a very basic form of stretching — only four different stretches! — and is believed to help keep your body healthy and youthful.

How to practice Makko Ho

Time: 3 minutes, twice a day morning/evening

  1. Hold the first three stretches for 40 seconds each
  2. The last stretch for about a minute
  • Personal note: It’s hard to do these straight out of bed! Warming up with a few squats and sit-ups first makes the stretching a lot more comfortable.

The power of simplicity

I’m not a physical therapist and can’t speak on behalf of the exercises, but one thing was very clear to me about Makko Ho: small steps, when exercised consistently, make great differences.

Small steps, when exercised consistently, make great differences.

As I found myself dedicating three minutes of my morning and evenings to stretching, I found that the good habits impacted other areas of my life — I felt more refreshed and inclined to go for a walk outside during the day. I felt myself growing more flexible, and motivated by my progress I would challenge myself to hold deeper positions for longer periods. When I had the time, I would often stretch more than 3 minutes, simply because it felt so good. Setting aside that time relaxed me, and it also built my confidence.

It’s about regaining your quality of life.

The exercise advice I now carry with me every day

I used to think for exercise to be beneficial, it meant I had to break a sweat and feel worn out afterwards. But I have since realized that even if movement is simple and asks for only three minutes of your time, consistency goes much farther than you’d think. It reminded me that moving your body is not really about gaining more muscle or endurance — it’s about regaining your quality of life.

For me, Makko Ho embodies the idea that we don’t need to make stretching and moving into an elaborate hour-long endeavor. The science, the terms, and the techniques are nice, but what we really need is to keep it consistent — and if short and simple helps, that’ll be plenty enough to keep your body mobile, strong, and youthful for years to come.

Just keep going!

Born in Dallas, raised in New York and Tokyo. I care about helping others learn to live a better, healthier life. My site: www.kakikata.space 🌱

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