- Cultivate “Sportsmen” who are kind to people in a weak position -
Professor Shinji Sato, Department of Department of Sport and Medical Science Faculty of Faculty of Medical Technology Teikyo University
Since 2011, he has been Associate Professor at the Faculty of Human Environment, Osaka Sangyo University. In 2014, he became Professor at the same department. In 2019, he became Professor at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Teikyo Heisei University. In 2021, he became Professor at Faculty of Medical Technology, Teikyo University. He is actively involved in various academic societies, including as a councilor of the Japanese Society of Cardiac Rehabilitation, a councilor of the Japan Society of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine, and a director of the Japanese Society of Clinical Exercise Therapy Exercise is Medicine (EIM) Japan.
When I was a student, Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" became a worldwide bestseller, and there was a sudden surge of interest in the environment. I was also affected by this, so I entered the Faculty of Science at university to study ecology. There I had an encounter that changed my life. Professor Howard A. Byrne of the University of California, Berkeley, who regularly visits Japan and gives lectures. He is an authority on ecology, and has been researching endocrine disruptors in particular. In particular, Lake Michigan was polluted with industrial effluents, causing all salmon to become females. I grew up overseas and had no trouble communicating in English. When I looked into it, I found out that when you exercise, a hormone called beta-endorphin is released in the brain, and research has begun to progress worldwide. I remember being very excited by the thought that "exercise may change the hormonal environment of the body and cure the disease". It was a time when the field of exercise therapy didn't exist as it does today, but I can say that it was the moment when my future was decided.
From there there was only action. Immediately after leaving the Faculty of Science, I was transferred to the laboratory of School of Medicine and approached medical research. After graduating from university, I once entered a company and engaged in clinical testing, but after two years I went back to Graduate School. After that, I thought that I needed to be able to teach exercise, so I was hired as a fitness instructor at a fitness club. I was enrolled here for 8 years and acquired the know-how of exercise guidance. During my time as an instructor, I had the opportunity to listen to a lecture by a specialist in cardiac rehabilitation, and I learned that the age of cardiac rehabilitation was coming. Up until now, people with heart disease had always taken bed rest, but in Germany, results were beginning to show that the state of heart disease improved if people enjoyed exercising (sports). This is exactly what I was aiming for in my research. So I quit my job as an instructor, knocked on the door of the professor who was giving the lecture, and decided to work at a university hospital, hoping to do research on how sports could help patients with heart disease live long, healthy lives.
Cardiac rehabilitation incorporating sports had a significant effect. For example, it stabilizes the autonomic nervous system and certainly improves arteriosclerosis. Long-term follow-up results also showed fewer recurrences of heart disease. With these achievements, I gained new knowledge when I moved from my first university hospital to a physical education university in Osaka as a teacher. It is the presence of youth. Students helped me with sports rehabilitation at a sports university. As a result, patients feel better than when they were treated at the hospital. As I pursued it, I came to understand that the existence of students = young people is the key. Many of the people who suffer from heart disease are elderly, and when children who are like my own granddaughters and grandsons listen intently to what I have to say, I am reminded of my social role of wanting to share my experiences and knowledge with my students. I am working on rehabilitation. This was a big discovery, because creating motivation is important for exercise.
Just at this time, there was an event that shook Japan. Great East Japan Earthquake. Our turn came some time after the earthquake. Lack of exercise disease began to spread in the temporary housing. The "Walking Person Project" was devised in response to a request to do something to improve the situation. It's about going out and walking together. Until now, I was only thinking about myself, but now I am thinking about people and the region. We have come to understand that this has the same effect as the elderly with heart disease who said that they will do their best for the students, and that it will also lead to regional revitalization.
There is a concept called social prescription. For example, the family doctor not only prescribes medicine, but also connects people, which is particularly advanced in the UK. This is a town on the outskirts of London that has become a very crowded place with cafés and studios opening as a result of the opening of the church to young people. A medical center for psychiatric disorders that happened to be nearby referred the patient there, and her symptoms improved. The UK Department of Health took notice of the case and applied it across the UK. We believe that our efforts, including the Walking Man Project, can be said to be one of the social prescriptions.
What I felt at the time of the earthquake was that the declining population, which had been quietly progressing in Japan from the beginning, and the distortions of the super-aging population had become apparent in the wake of the disaster. And now, the same thing is happening due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection. In order to solve this problem, we are developing activities similar to those in the disaster area in Tokyo. The location is Koenji, Suginami Ward. There is a famous public bath here, and it is a place for a little interaction between the elderly and the young. The young people who gather there, the Tokyo Medical Association, the Regional Comprehensive Center, the Social Welfare Council, etc., call out to the community, gather people who are a little socially isolated, and walk in the streets of Koenji in the evening. I started an activity called "Sunset Walk". At the center are local people and Teikyo University students. In fact, people are connecting while exercising. We are steadily fostering such trinity projects.
In Europe, "exercise" comes from the Latin word "deportare," which means "play." In the United States, it is "exercise" (training), so the aspect is quite different. People who are considered true athletes and sportsmen in Europe are highly respected. It is believed that being kind to those in a lesser position is very important for those who are physically endowed, and in fact many athletes can be seen acting with this awareness. . There is a word "noblesse oblige" that originated in France. The term was coined to refer to the responsibility that comes with holding money, power, and social status, but it also applies to physically gifted sportsmen.
The educational policy in my Department of Sport and Medical Science is also based on the theme of "noblesse oblige." Here we can see the similarities between the movement and the SDGs. For example, people with healthy minds and bodies reaching out to those in a weaker position are similar to what is expected of developed countries. In addition, it is the responsibility of adults with experience and social standing to build a new future for the children of the next generation, regardless of whether they are developed or developing countries. It is no exaggeration to say that the way people think through exercise and how to create healthiness will foster awareness that leads directly to the SDGs. I believe that it is very meaningful to reconsider the value of movement in order to connect it to a new hopeful future without stopping the progress of humankind.