Cabbies urged to exercise more and take less sweet drinks to prevent diabetes

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong (middle, waving) flagged off the National Taxi Association's 3km walkathon for diabetes awareness.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong (middle, waving) flagged off the National Taxi Association's 3km walkathon for diabetes awareness. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Taxi drivers stretched, did tai-chi, and walked 3km around the Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage on Sunday (Sept 25) morning in the name of diabetes awareness.
Taxi drivers stretched, did tai-chi, and walked 3km around the Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage on Sunday (Sept 25) morning in the name of diabetes awareness. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Participants of the National Taxi Association's walkathon for diabetes awareness.
Participants of the National Taxi Association's walkathon for diabetes awareness. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - Some 250 taxi drivers stretched, did tai-chi, and walked 3km around the Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage on Sunday (Sept 25) morning - all in the name of diabetes awareness.

The drivers were taking part in the National Taxi Association's (NTA) first 3km "Drive away diabetes" walkathon, which seeks to raise awareness on how drivers can prevent diabetes.

They were joined by 250 of their family members, as well as Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who flagged off the walk.

The drivers were encouraged to take less sweet drinks and exercise more.

Diabetes is one of the biggest preventable drains on the healthcare system. The disease costs the country $1 billion a year, in terms of treatment as well as lost man-hours.

Mr Gan, who heads the Diabetes Prevention and Care Taskforce, and Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng on Saturday also launched a six-month crowdsourcing exercise that seeks to find ways to motivate people to eat properly, exercise regularly, watch their weight and stay healthy.

Speaking to the media before the walkathon on Sunday, NTA executive adviser Ang Hin Kee said he hopes activities like these would help encourage more cabbies to take ownership of their health and fitness.

The NTA is also collaborating with the National Kidney Foundation to offer free health screenings to all its 21,000 members.

Mr Ang added that the NTA would be quite happy to provide feedback to the task force.

"The job nature of taxi driving, coupled with the fact that most cabbies are in their 50s to 60s, make them more vulnerable to the threat of diabetes," said Mr Ang.

He added that many drivers have seen their peers stricken by illnesses such as diabetes or strokes and realise that "these problems not only impact their health, but also their livelihood".

Cabbies yesterday told The Straits Times that it was difficult but necessary to try and fit in exercise into their long shifts.

Mr Ramasamy Kupusamy, 70, said he walks up and down the stairs to his fourth-floor HDB flat daily, and washes his taxi by hand every day.

"It takes about 45 minutes, but at the end of it, you are already sweating," said Mr Ramasamy.

Mr Pedro Wu, 64, said it was difficult to fit in exercise into their long shifts.

"In the car, we can only do simple stretching," said Mr Wu. But he added that after he had a mild stroke four years ago, he now tries to brisk walk daily after his eight-hour shift.

"No one wants to be sick, you can't predict what will happen so you just have to take precautions," said Mr Wu.