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10 Best Fitness Anime – 9 Tailed Kitsune

Spring is a time for resetting our lives. We come out of our hibernation and realize we are not the same person we were in the fall. If you are like me, the winter has a way of putting on the pounds. No worries. April has a day dedicated to getting back into shape. April 18 is National Exercise Day! In the spirit of healthy living, I thought it might be good to countdown good anime that have a fitness message.

Shockingly, anime does not have many health instruction series. There are dozens of sports anime but few that cover fitness. The process of narrowing down a top ten list was not easy. Our focus was on the series exercise value. This could be either an individual or team event. We graded them by personal preference and the feedback from fans. This is the result of our efforts.

As you review the post, please feel free to let me know if I overlooked your favorite exercise anime. Leave a comment below and let me know your picks.

10. Issho ni Training: Training with Hinaka

  • Aired: April 2009
  • Number of Episodes: 1 [OVA]

Diving into our list, we splash into the water with Issho ni Training: Training with Hinako. This OVA was the first of three healthy living anime. Studio Hibari brought in Iku Suzuki to direct the project. The studio is known for its roster of failures rather than for its hits. Training with Hinako is one of those that misses the mark. The story opens with a live-action sequence before carrying the lead into the anime. Mia Kadowaki would voice Hinako. 

This anime has a simple premise. A young but unfit shut-in gets isekai’d from the real world into an anime one. A cute girl, she desires to maintain her new physical fitness. Talking directly to the viewer, Hinako works out. She repeats reps of push-ups, sit-ups, and crunches over the episode. That is it! Meanwhile, the camera pans from face to boobs to booty. 

Isshoi ni Training: Training with Hinako is a far cry from award-winning. But I dare say that it is so bad that it achieves cult status. Despite its simple nature, the story does promote physical fitness and who wouldn’t want to train with a cute anime girl?

9. Ani Tore! EX

  • Season: Fall 2015
  • Number of Episodes: 12

The ninth entry may be a bit obscure to most anime fans. With this said, Ani Tore! EX is one of the better fitness anime series to watch. This is a product of Rising Force Studios, with production by Earth Star Entertainment. Atsushi Nigorikawa would direct the series. The studio’s catalog is short, which most would describe as run-of-the-mill. Ani Tore! EX is no exception but with each episode clocking in at four minutes, you are not slogging through it.

The concept of Ani Tore! EX is a simple one. Take care of yourself through exercise and a healthy diet.  There are six young teenage girls, who aspire to become idols. Episodes shadow one of the young ladies walking through the paces. A small sample of the things this anime covers includes how to do proper push-ups, dancing, and Tai Chi. The teens cover a topic by talking directly to the viewer.

What happens if you combine How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? and Issho ni Training? I imagine you would have Ani Tore! EX. If you are new to physical activity, this might be worth viewing.

8. Cells at Work! Code: Black!

  • Season: Winter 2021
  • Number of Episodes: 13

The first of two works by Akane Shimizu makes their presence on our countdown. Cells at Work! Code: Black is a studio Liden Films production. The anime builds out from the original story, Cells at Work!. Hideyo Yamamoto, of Strike the Blood fame, directed the series. Hayashi Mori would compose the series soundtrack. Uncharacteristically, the series would air in the West two days before its release to Japanese audiences.

Cells at Work! Code: Black! answers the age-old question of what happens to a body if you stopped giving a crap. Let us just say that the outcomes are not good. The series follows a red blood cell in the body of someone with unhealthy life choices. With each harmful action, the body’s cells attempt to ward off the long and short-term effects. Like Cells at Work!, these are episodic events. Unlike the earlier work, this series has a lot of adult themes. 

Cells at Work! Code: Black! is a cautionary journey. Surprisingly, the series holds off on being preachy. Even if you do not engage in these behaviors, Cells at Work! Code: Black! is a great anime if you wish to live a healthy life.

7. How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?

  • Season: Summer 2019
  • Number of Episodes: 12

Our next entry starts with the first of several sports anime. How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift! is a bit of a mixed-bag anime that has a good message, which sometimes takes a backseat to gym culture tropes. The anime is a studio Dogo Kobo production. Yabako Sandrovich’s manga would serve as the series source. Dogo Kobo tasked Mitsue Yamazaki to direct the series. The first episode aired in Japan on July 3, 2019. 

How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift! follows a high school girl’s journey to live healthily. Hibiki Sakura is a high school girl, whose appetite leads to weight gain. Concerned, she joins the local gym. Hibiki makes gym friends who support her efforts to lose weight. Along her trek, the series gives insight into healthy living and proper exercise. The workout examples align with a person’s activity type, from beginner to advanced. 

There are times when the ecchi and comedy elements distract from the series’ message. However, anything less would be an instructional video and where is the fun in that? How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift! may not be perfect but it is a great gateway to healthier living.

6. Wanna Be the Strongest in the World

  • Season: Fall 2013
  • Number of Episodes: 12

Wanna Be the Strongest in the World looks at the world of women’s wrestling. A studio Arms production, the story comes from ESE’s manga of the same title. Rion Kujo would direct this athletic theater series. His prior works in the director’s seat include Aesthetica of the Rogue Hero and Stray Cats Overrun!. Wanna Be the Strongest in the World has mild nudity, which helped to earn it an R rating.

The story is about Sakura Hagiwara, a pop idol turned pro wrestler. A member of Sweet Diva, she enters the ring after a female wrestler beats up a member of the idol group. Sakura joins the Berserk Wrestlers team and puts in the effort to grow into a top-notch athlete. Her journey is not an easy one. The anime does a great job of showing it takes more than acting to be a pro wrestler.

This is a zero-to-hero anime. Wanna Be the Strongest in the World may be a predictable fitness anime but it has drive. Through physical fitness, Sakura proves that with a little hard work and effort, one can achieve great things.

5. Cells at Work!

  • Season: Summer 2018
  • Number of Episodes: 13

Few would argue that health is not key to physical fitness. No anime makes this link better than Cells at Work!. The threads of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure run deep in the fabric of this anime. David Production Studio would adapt Akane Shimizu’s manga. The studio would bring in Hirohiko Araki to helm the project. Their efforts give Cells at Work some great and over-the-top fights.

Cells at Work! is an episodic anime that covers specific healthcare threats to the human body. The story shadows a red blood cell, named AE3803. As she delivers oxygen, various diseases and ailments wage war on the human body. The body’s defenses or cells kick in to take on these threats. Cells at Work! looks at a wide array of illnesses from a simple scrape to hemorrhagic shock. The episodes are fun and informative without having to feel like you sat through a biology lecture.

Cells at Work! holds a niche within the community. Dare I say it – the series has become mainstream. Across the globe, the healthcare community heaps praises on this series. This may be a reason why fans shy away from it. Despite the urge, I highly recommend Cells at Work! if you like living healthy or are just interested in how the body works.

4. Yawara!

  • Season: Fall 1989
  • Number of Episodes: 124

Time to return to old-school anime. Our fourth tale comes from the mind of manga writer, Naoki Urasawa. Yawara! is a rom-com caught up in the world of professional judo. Madhouse would adapt the manga to anime. Hiroko Tokita directed the project, while Yasuo Urakami oversaw the series’ sound. A successful combat anime, the series ran from 1989 to 1992.

The story follows a young girl, Yawara Inokuma. An average teen, she fills her days lost in thought and longing to find a boyfriend. Her grandfather has other plans. He sees her physical prowess and pushes her into taking up judo. Reluctantly, Yawara takes up the sport and becomes a top athlete. Despite having her head in the clouds, she is a disciplined judo artist.

Yawara is far from a Mary-Sue. She works hard to be an athlete while maintaining her cute girl image. This is a good story, with some hard-hitting workouts and matches. These qualities earn Yawara! a spot on our countdown.

3. Ping Pong the Animation

  • Season: Spring 2014
  • Number of Episodes: 11

When it comes to fitness, traditional workouts may not be for everyone. This is definitely true in my case. There are other activities that promote fitness that we cannot discount. Ping Pong the Animation is an example of one of these alternative physical activities. A Tatsunoko Production, Ping Pong is a fitness anime adapted from Taiyou Matsumot’s manga series. The studio picked Masaaki Yuasa to helm the visually unique story.

The tale follows two close friends, Peco and Smile. They are members of the Katase High School table tennis club. After losing a match, Peco decides to quit the team. On the other hand, his friend is not into the competition of ping pong but just loves playing the sport. Smile must conquer his inner demons to become a world-class table tennis player.

Physical prowess does not always win the day. There are times when strategy is the key to success. This anime, much like Chihayafuru, leans on the athlete’s mental and physical tenacity. These qualities land Ping Pong the Animation a third-place spot on our wellness journey.

2. Haikyuu!!

  • Season: Spring 2014
  • Number of Episodes: 25

When it comes to sports anime, no one does it better than Haikyuu!! Manga writer and artist, Haruichi Furudate would create this high school volleyball story. Production I.G picked the manga for an anime adaptation. They chose Susumu Mitsunaka to helm the project. His previous credits included artwork on Naruto Shippuden, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Chihayafuru. The finished work would capture the feel and thrill of the manga.

Haikyuu!! centers around the Karasuno High School volleyball team. The team struggles with teaching new players and preparing for the veteran players to leave. Enter Shoyo Hinata and Tobio Kageyama. Great in their own right, the two of them must learn to work as a team rather than as individuals. The series has instance training montages and team-building exercises, the matches are also not half bad.

Haikyuu!! is an award-winning series. Funimation crowned the series with the title of best sports anime of the decade. We agree and this is why Haikyuu!! earns a top spot on our list of great fitness anime.

Honorable Mention goes to Laid-Back Camp and Yuri!! on Ice.

1. Fighting Spirit

  • Season: Fall 2000
  • Number of Episodes: 75

The world of boxing is not for everyone. A sport as old as time can literally destroy an individual both physically and mentally. With this said, our top pick for fitness anime is Hajime no Ippo or Fighting Spirit.

Fighting Spirit is a Madhouse production. This boxing-themed tale stemmed from George Morikawa’s successful manga. Madhouse tapped Satoshi Nishimura to direct the series. He also took part in the storyboarding. The series’ sound direction fell to Masafumi Mima. Fighting Spirit would pull together some of anime’s most intense boxing scenes.

The anime follows Ippo Makunouchi. He is a high school student, who keeps to himself. Isolated, Ippo is the target of bullying. This leads him to be beaten into an inch of his life. Waking up in a gym, Ippo learns that a boxer saved him. He makes a promise to himself to become stronger.  With the help of other boxers, Ippo grows into a prizefighter. The series includes some intense training sessions and sparring matches.

Fighting Spirit is a moving story, with gripping characters. The violent scenes may not be for everyone. In spite of this, the story centers around personal growth and overcoming obstacles. Fighting Spirit has intense physical activity, which crowns it our top anime with a fitness message.

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