Just as the first few bars of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood introduction are recognized by the vast majority of the American population, so do the first few bars of the “Rajio Taiso” daily broadcast resonate with generations of Japanese people.
More akin to the “Macarena” or the “Cha Cha Slide”, this music sets the cadence used by millions of Japanese over the last 94 years to complete a sequence of 13 calisthenic exercises every morning at 6:30AM. It bears repeating: 13 exercises, for 10 minutes, every morning, for 94 years…and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how long some of the older members of the Japanese population have been at it!
“Rajio Taiso” is not a new concept, but it is the inspiration behind a new passion for the personal trainer, reality show personality, and author, Chris Powell. His new challenge is to “Move One Million”, to have as many people as possible adopt this simple principle: to move for just 2:30 minutes every day. “It’s simple, but it is huge”, as Chris says, “the difficult part is always to start moving. A body in motion will stay in motion.”
The face looks familiar, the energy certainly is. For 20 years, health and fitness has been at the center of Chris’ life. You may have known him from his segment on Good Morning Arizona and, later, for the ABC hit show “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss”, but his journey to fitness began way earlier when faced with a challenge too many have had to face when growing up: bullying and self-esteem.
Born in Mesa, Chris moved around a lot before his family settled down in Portland, Oregon. The smallest in his school, he tried for the high school football team, but was rejected. Crushed and defeated, he felt depressed and miserable. Soon after, he came home to find that the living room had been cleared and that, in place of furniture, it was now occupied by workout equipment…and the family television.
Exercising every day, Chris began adding a little more weight, a few more reps. Pretty soon, he was devouring every fitness magazine he could lay his hands on. Eventually, he even found the courage to head back to his school gym to work out. This time, his knowledge and work ethic won the respect of the same football player who had bullied him before.
After high school, Chris began looking for a career. The son of an airline pilot, he fully expected to follow in his father’s footstep. While “building his hours”, i.e. the number of hours a pilot needs in order to be certified in each of the area needed to become an airline pilot, Chris attended ASU majoring in Fitness Science. He may have had a passion for fitness, but he did not believe at the time he could earn a living in the field. Instead, he prepared for his first pilot interview scheduled for September 13, 2001 - needless to say, the interview did not happen.
In need of work, Chris applied at a local fitness center and the rest, as they say, is history. In a repeat of his earlier success at his high school gym, Chris started building a following which then gave him the confidence to pitch the idea of a regular fitness segment to a Good Morning Arizona television producer and, eventually, led to ABC and “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss”. By the end of the show’s five-year run in 2015, the show was available in 140 countries around the world and made Chris realize that he needed to be able to reach more people.
For the next five years, Chris tried unsuccessfully to explore ways to reach out more people. While he had already reached millions through his television shows, the show format and its popularity limited the number of participants every season. To help more people, he invested in supplements, containers, and even designed a web platform.
By 2019, the strain on his family and his marriage became too much. Chris imploded and retreated from life, and everything, to the point where he could no longer even enjoy exercising. Breathing exercises or meditation no longer helped, he needed to seek professional assistance. As so many high-performance athletes in the last few years have helped us understand, sometimes it is necessary – even if you are at the top of your game.
It took a long while to put things back together. By the end of the pandemic, things had gotten better. He felt like himself again. Taking the time to re-evaluate and reflect over the last few years while meditating on top of one of the buttes in the East Valley, Chris realized that he was not alone. At that moment, he realized that he needed something simple to reach out to everyone in Phoenix.
Excited, he rushed back home to do some research and came across a documentary about “Rajio Taiso”, a simple way to help millions of people start their day, gently warm up, and get moving. “Move 1 Million” was born! The platform is available to everyone for free. Local leaders, teachers, family members, everyone can sign up and use the app. It is meant to help create an army of heroes to be leaders in their communities.
Things are better now, as for the future, Chris is working on a new podcast with Matthew Blade and is currently working on a new app to launch this spring.
All it takes is a first step…