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Lack of outdoor exercise and obesity in Fukushima

March 24, 2013


Ibaraki students ace fitness test / Bumps Fukui in rankings; Fukushima drops significantly on list

Ibaraki Prefecture has surpassed Fukui Prefecture in the rankings of middle school students' physical fitness, while Fukushima Prefecture dropped significantly on the list, possibly due to a lack of exercise caused by the 2011 nuclear disaster.

On Friday, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry announced the results of its fiscal 2012 physical fitness survey of students, which targeted fifth-graders at primary schools and second-year students at middle schools.

The test assesses physical strength, athletic ability and fitness routines, and was conducted for the first time in two years, as the fiscal 2011 test was not carried out due to the Great East Japan Earthquake. This year was the fourth national test overall.


In contrast, Fukushima Prefecture dropped sharply in the rankings--from 32nd to 45th for fifth-grade boys and from 19th to 30th for fifth-grade girls.

Fukushima Prefecture also ranked the worst for childhood obesity. Its obesity rate was the highest in the nation--17.2 percent for fifth-grade boys and 12.6 percent for fifth-grade girls, an increase of 1.7 and 2.1 percentage points, respectively, from the previous test.

The prefecture's obesity rate for second-year middle school students also edged up and was ranked the second worst for both girls and boys.

An official at the Fukushima prefectural board of education said the poor results were likely linked to the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. "The continued restriction of outdoor activities due to the crisis deprived children of time and opportunities for doing exercise," the official said.

The educational board has promoted the introduction of exercise programs for children codeveloped with Fukushima University. The official said: "We'd like to improve children's physical strength by making them move their bodies on a daily basis at places that are familiar to them."


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