The Rolled Towel Controversy: Do Japanese Exercises Introduced by Fukutsudzi Work?

One of the fad ways to lose weight that has taken off quite recently is the one promoted by Toshiki Fukutsudzi. Using little to no equipment (if a towel can be considered one) and spending no more than 5 minutes per session on it, you can reduce back pain, lose weight, and benefit in many other ways, as rolled towel advocates claim. Let’s take a closer look at it.

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The Internet is teeming with all kinds of diets, exercises, devices and other means of losing weight – with the obesity rates we are witnessing, it comes as no surprise that all such fad things related to shedding pounds gain ground fast. Striving to get rid of extra kilograms, people, women in particular, seek the easiest way to do it – preferably without strenuous exercising or strict diets. So when someone claiming that you can lose weight by lying and virtually doing nothing for 5 minutes three times a day, with no investments whatsoever, is it not difficult to believe that many people will get hooked and inspired by it, jumping at the opportunity to tune your body before another summer season kicks off.

This is just what happened to Dr. Toshiki Fukutsudzi, a Japanese reflexology and massage specialist who made a name for himself when his books on how to improve your posture – and lose weight by doing so – hit the shelves of Japanese bookstores. It’s not that he was advocating the use of some miraculous approach – admittedly, posture correction may produce quite a lot of beneficial effects on the body – but what was originally a general wellness technique aimed at reducing back pain immediately transformed into a new fad exercise for losing weight, and it is the media who are largely to blame for it.

So what is it?

The exercises introduced by Fukutsudzi imply lying on a rolled towel for five minutes three times a day. On this page, you can find more details about how exactly they are performed. In a nutshell, it boils down to rolling a towel, placing it under your lower back (at the navel height), placing your feet shoulder-width apart while pointing toes inward so that they touch one another, and lying with your arms above your head and palms down – your pinkies must also touch each other. According to Fukutsudzi, this exercise helps you to improve your posture and, after some time of training, lose weight due to the skeleton correction it causes.

In this video, the chiropractor demonstrates how the exercise should be performed. Note that the video is in Japanese with no subtitles – strangely enough, despite the approach’s popularity, Fukutsudzi’s books have not been translated into English yet.

Does it work?

The jury is still out on whether this exercise can help – the feedback found online suggests that it may help some people relieve back pain (while increasing it at the beginning), but the weight-loss claim is far more suspicious. There have been no clinical trials revolving around it, so from the scientific point of view it is not backed by ample evidence.

Still, stretching the spine can be beneficial, as Harvard specialists report. Besides, it can help maintain flexibility, which is important regardless of age – for example, in the elderly stretching can help prevent falls.

As to weight loss, it takes more than lying on a towel to get in shape – skipping exercising and eating unhealthy foods are what contributes to weight gain, and it is only after these two issues are addressed that you can lose extra pounds.

So, the answer to the question in the title is “yes” to back pain and “not likely” to weight loss. However, you can try this exercise at home – just make sure there are no contraindications by consulting a professional prior to plunging into the world of rolled towels. Chances are you will like the effects it may produce; if you don’t, you can throw in the towel.


Towel Exercise –

Stretching and strengthening are key to healing and preventing back pain –

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