Most 90-year-olds can barely walk, let alone exercise, but 90-year-old Takishima Mika not only conducts daily fitness regimens religiously, but she actually works as a fitness instructor at a gym.

For most of us, “age is just a number” is just a tired cliché, but people like Takishima Mika, aka “Takimika”, are proof that it doesn’t have to be. The sprightly pensioner, who turned 90 on on January 15, is more active than most 20-year-olds and probably fitter too. She is Japan’s oldest fitness instructor and has become somewhat of a minor celebrity in the Asian country, both because of her excellent physical shape, and her positive attitude and infectious smile. But Takimika wasn’t always like that. In fact, her transformation began late in life, when she was already in her 60s

There was a time when Takishima Mika would herself as plump and without any interest in exercise of any kind. But a random comment by her husband regarding her weight, when she was 65-years-old, changed everything. A fulltime housewife, Takimika had never even considered going to a gym, but her husband’s comment made her do just that, and she caught the fitness bug almost instantly.

“In those days I was more than just a little plump—my trouser size was twice what it is now,” Mika told Nippon Magazine. “And yet, I stubbornly refused to admit that I was overweight. One day, however, my husband made a comment about my weight, and that was when I decided to join a gym.”

Although she achieved her initial goal of losing 15 kilograms after about five years, Takimika continued training, as newfound love of fitness helped her set new challenges for herself.

“I only got into fitness because I wanted to lose weight. Once I had done that, however, I decided I wanted to have a nice tight bottom like a Brazilian woman. Then, once I had achieved that, I decided I wanted broad shoulders and a narrow waist. The next thing I knew, I was teaching aerobics classes. I never dreamed my life would play out like this,” she said.

Believe it or not, Takimika only became a fitness instructor at age 87, after being half-forced into it by her own coach. Seeing her positive attitude in the gym, and her passion for exercising, Nakasawa Tomoharu, Takishima’s trainer and the owner of Power Aging gym, just couldn’t let the opportunity pass him by. She had joined the gym at age 79, and had grown into a complete athlete in the eight years since.

“Every inch of Takishima’s body exudes a love of training. She’s a great speaker too. The more I worked with her, the more I felt that it was a waste to have her come here only as a pupil, which is why I half forced her to take the role of fitness instructor. Takishima resisted initially, but her achievements have exceeded our expectations,” Nakasawa said.

Although Takimika could only hold her fitness classes in the gym once a week, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, she made sure to stay in shape by sticking to her usual training schedule and diet. At this point, she doesn’t even consider it exercising anymore, but more like second nature.

The 90-year-old usually goes to sleep at around 11 pm, and wakes up at 3 am, requiring only four hours of sleep. She then goes for a 4-kilometer walk, followed by a 3-kilometer jog, and a 1-kilometer backwards walk. She then has a hearty, balanced breakfast, then does some housework and light stretches, and maybe watches some TV, not forgetting to keep her back totally straight and abdomen pulled in.

The nonagenarian always eats a light lunch, as she tends to get sleepy if she overeats, followed by an intense training session. In the evening, she has a hearty dinner, paired with a glass of wine. Until bedtime, Takimika will practice the fitness exercises assigned by her own instructor, practice on the computer and hone her English skills.

Takishima Mika’s story has touched many elderly people in Japan, over 80,000 of which are centenarians, and some have been inspired to take up fitness to improve their health and general wellbeing. Japan’s oldest fitness instructor has set two new goals for herself – to get everyone fit and healthy and still be a fitness instructor when she’s a hundred years old.

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