In line with Sunbears’ objective of bringing people together through sports and technology, today we will present an increasingly popular trend in Japan, which particularly accelerated in the context of the global pandemic and its constraints.
That is Yuru Sports // ゆるスポーツ (i.e., “laid-back sports”) — a series of sporting games aimed at removing physical barriers within sports, by means of AR technology. Augmented reality (AR) refers to the merging of digital elements within a user’s real-life surroundings. Unlike virtual reality (VR), it doesn’t entirely immerse the user in an artificial environment.
Due to current restrictions and regulations, socialising, along with participation in any forms of physical activity have drastically decreased globally, aspects that are posing concerns, as they play crucial roles in our general health, both physical and mental. Concurrently, the pandemic has taken its toll on people’s mental health, figures of depression and anxiety having spiked. Even more, pandemic stress tends to be higher among younger generations, yet present among all age groups.
Therefore, we feel grateful for the initiatives taken to bring us closer at a time when we are so apart. This being said, we will start introducing how this recent trend in shaping attitudes and perceptions towards sports, creating a more inclusive and connected sports community.
A BROADER ATHLETE COMMUNITY
With this occasion, we encourage challenging our mindset of who can and cannot participate in sports. By learning from each other despite our ages or physical abilities, we can all grow stronger, not just physically, but as members of society.
So let’s explore a distinct approach to how we play and think about sports, designed to be accessible to a wider audience. Next, we will present some of the most popular and impactful Yuru Sports among with the contributions each are making to our society.
An innovation to the game of hockey, requiring AR technology, few everyday items, and a kotatsu // 炬燵 (i.e., traditional Japanese low, wooden table covered by a heavy blanket, with an underneath heat source — often used during winters).
This game is suitable for the elderly as it promotes concentration and physical movement through stretching and contracting of the arms, using a hot cup of tea to repel the digital orange (i.e., the puck) — hence, implying a positive impact for the mind and body.
And while the percentage of Japanese seniors engaging in physical exercises is considerably high, for example, constituting “at least 20% of all gym members”, on a wider scale, worldwide, elders tend to withdraw from sports activities as these may be perceived as unsuitable for their age, health, energy levels, etc.
Contrastingly, physical activity has been proven to be beneficial for functional health (i.e., muscles, bones, nerves), while lowering the risks of non-communicable diseases, mental health disorders, and cognitive decline. More suggestions of activities adults aged 65+ shall consider include: “walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming, cycling, household chores, games, sports or planned exercise”, for at least 150 minutes a week, as listed by WHO, HHS, and the NHS, 2020.
TON TON VOICE SUMO
This new approach to sumo (i.e., traditional Japanese sport) involves players speaking “tontontonton…” out loud into their microphone — which captures their voice vibrations, and then influences the movements of the paper sumo wrestlers on the ring. This game can be both a one-on-one, and team vs team confrontation.
This initiative was developed so as to improve throat functions, which tend to decline as we age, implying further health risks such as breathings issues or trouble swallowing. Just as important, through our vocal cords we are able to communicate, however, around the world, elders particularly are less likely to speak aloud, and hence, often avoid or even abstain from socialising.
This has been proven to affect health and wellbeing — studies revealing that social isolation and loneliness increase likelihood of cognitive decline, mental health disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and a weakened immune system. Accordingly, an active social life may reduce stress and isolation tendencies, helping maintain mental, emotional, and physical health.
EYE BLOW LIFTING
This game requires lifting your eyebrows as many times as you can in 30 seconds — the winner being the one with the highest count — which is recorded by means of AR technology. This implies a distinct view on sports, as it focuses on working facial muscles, opposed to the usual body muscles.
Such game helps release the tension and stiffness in our foreheads and around our eyes, which we are even more prone to nowadays, considering the restrictions brought by the pandemic. Moreover, alike the sports mentioned above, this game is also more accessible to people with certain disabilities.
Globally, disabled adults are much more likely to be physically inactive compared to non-disabled adults, while only minorities considering that ‘sports’ are a suitable option. Yet, physical activity is just as important as it is to non-disabled people. Thus, it is essential to acknowledge and aim to engage in any adequate forms of physical activity whenever possible.
If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to our blog and check out upcoming updates about the initiatives taken by our Sunbears team to innovate and enhance connectivity within the sports world. Aligned with the visions presented in this article, our aim is to establish a safe, thriving community — based on sharing support, knowledge, and expertise — that is inclusive and dares to challenge current norms. Stay tuned!
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) Physical Activity for People with Disability [online] available from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/features/physical-activity-for-all.html
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Oxford Dictionary (2020) augmented reality [online] available from https://languages.oup.com/
Statista (2020) Pandemic Causes Spike in Anxiety & Depression [online] available from https://www.statista.com/chart/21878/impact-of-coronavirus-pandemic-on-mental-health/
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Taylor, D. (2014) ‘Physical activity is medicine for older adults’ Postgraduate Medical Journal 90, 26–32. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/postgradmedj-2012-131366
The Japan Times (2018) The elderly are dominating Japan’s fitness clubs [online] available from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/03/25/commentary/japan-commentary/elderly-dominating-japans-fitness-clubs/#.X0Ost8gzY2x
World Health Organisation (2020) Physical Activity and Older Adults [online] available from https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_olderadults/en/
Yuru Sports (2020) Eye Blow Lifting [online] available from https://yurusports.com/sports/aryurusports/eyeblowlifting
Yuru Sports (2020) Kotatsu Hockey [online] available from https://yurusports.com/sports/healthcare/kotatsuhockey
Yuru Sports (2020) Ton Ton Voice Sumo [online] available from https://yurusports.com/sports/healthcare/tontonvoicesumo
Yuru Sports (2020) World Yuru Sports Association [online] available from http://yurusports.com/
世界ゆるスポーツ協会 — YouTube (2016)【公式】トントンボイス相撲 PV [online] available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=120&v=GDvcSkQ96Jg&feature=emb_logo