Better exercise stations with fitness programme for Toa Payoh, Bishan seniors

SINGAPORE- Seniors living in Bishan and Toa Payoh will get better fitness stations below their blocks.They can also sign up for programmes where trainers conduct classes with these equipment, so participants grow stronger and are less likely to fall.

"We want to help the elderly age healthily, age should not be a barrier to active life," said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP.

Singapore General Hospital (SGH) doctors also gave advice in the planning of these fitness stations and exercise programmes. They target strength, flexibility, balance and stamina, which are key in preventing falls.

"We must move up the curve, help seniors exercise in their community and prevent the need for hospitalisation,"said Dr Ng Yee Sien, the head and senior consultant of SGH's rehabilitation medicine department.

The new fitness stations are likely the first where seniors can adjust the resistance of the equipment. "Those who are stronger can do more and those who are weaker can do less, so it is more personalised," said Dr Ng Yee Sien.

But resistance is also limited so that the elderly do not injure themselves if they use equipment without supervision.

Residents can also go to community centres and sign up for free programmes where trainers from local health firm Fitness and Health International(FHI) conduct classes. The programme lasts three months, with weekly sessions lasting an hour.

A pilot with about 40 elderly has already shown good results. Most are able to walk a longer distance in six minutes which is a predictor of mortality and hospitalisation. Many have also shown improvement in flexibility and strength tests.

The constituency will have 72 such new fitness stations, with several being upgraded from older versions. To ensure sustainability of the programme, trainers from FHI will also train grassroots volunteers to instruct the classes and residents will be evaluated pre and post programme for progress.

Bishan and Toa Payoh are two of Singapore's oldest estates, with a high proportion of elderly. There are 69,000 seniors over 50 now, but there will be over 100,000 residents of that age in 10 years, said Dr Ng Eng Hen.

Other constituencies are welcome to adopt the concept if they find it suitable, he added.