A range of businesses have been ramping up the promotion of exercise products and programs to encourage more children to take up sports.

In one innovation, a Mizuno Corp. group company has developed a product to help elementary school kids perform back hip circles on horizontal bars in physical education classes — an gymnastics maneuver they often shun.

Mizuno showed off the product at a sports event in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward in November that attracted some 150 children and their parents.

Hinami Oya, 8, performed the tricky exercise with the help of the product.

“I learned how my body rotates. I think I can now do it in physical education class,” she said.

Masahiro Nakagawa, Tokyo branch head of Senoh Corp., the Mizuno subsidiary that developed the product with an associate professor at the University of Toyama, said, “We want to eliminate even one factor that makes children hate physical exercise, for the sake of expanding the market for sports gear.”

Senoh, which manufactures sports and exercise equipment, will market the product, which costs ¥27,000, to elementary schools and teacher colleges across Japan.

On another front, Asics Corp. has launched the Kids Sports Challenge program to measure the sports ability of children aged 3 to 6 in six areas, including the 10-meter dash, kicking a soccer ball and throwing a tennis ball.

The event is held at kindergartens and commercial facilities throughout the country around 20 times a year to help judge the type of exercise a child is good at.

“To broaden sports-related markets, we will help parents recognize the importance of physical exercise for small children,” an Asics official in charge of the program said.

Meanwhile, Nestle Japan last November debuted a table tennis game combined with dietary education for elementary school pupils. In the game, children hit a table tennis ball at cards with images of nutritional foods.

The game is a part of Nestle S.A.’s worldwide Healthy Kids Global Program, which is designed to raise nutrition and health knowledge and promote physical activity among school-age children around the world.

To help children learn the importance of physical exercise in addition to nutritional food, the new program involves table tennis because it is a “handy sport for anyone,” a Nestle spokesperson said.

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