New fitness test helps seniors work out best exercise for them

Mr Lim taking the fitness test yesterday at Pasir Ris Sports Complex while his wife, Madam Tan Sai Choo (left), looks on.
Mr Lim taking the fitness test yesterday at Pasir Ris Sports Complex while his wife, Madam Tan Sai Choo (left), looks on.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

Every other day, Mr Richard Lim lifts 5kg dumbbells 100 times and does 100 push-ups. But he is no young man pushing himself hard at the gym. He is 77 years old and works out at home.

"I am the odd one out," said Mr Lim. "As a grassroots volunteer for the last 12 years, I see many seniors either cooping themselves up at home watching TV, playing mahjong or just sitting down at coffee shops to chat. Whenever I ask them to join me to exercise, they say no."

According to a National Sport Index Survey conducted two years years ago, 64 per cent of respondents who exercise less than once a month cited age and health issues as the main reasons why they do not exercise regularly.

To help address concerns from older folk that exercising may put them at higher risk of injuries, the national movement for sport - ActiveSG - joined hands with the Singapore Physiotherapy Association to come up with a special fitness test for the elderly.

It is believed to be the first of its kind, as other tests for seniors usually involve just health screenings. The test will help to determine whether the person is suitable for sport or physical activity and if so, what kinds of activities he should opt for.

"Age should never be a reason for seniors to shun sports," said ActiveSG chief Lai Chin Kwang. "Regular exercise is key to ageing well and ensuring a high quality of life, physically and mentally," he added.

Mr Jazimin Haron, from the Singapore Physiotherapy Association, said: "The test can help reduce the risk of injury of a participant as it allows participants to identify the component of fitness in which they have their strengths or weaknesses.

"From the results, physiotherapists can then recommend specific exercises to improve their fitness and stay active."

Yesterday, about 100 seniors took the test at the Pasir Ris Sports Complex. The test measured five main domains of fitness: strength, flexibility, aerobic fitness, agility and balance.

To measure upper limb flexibility, for instance, seniors were asked to stretch both arms towards their back and see how much their middle fingers were able to meet.

People under 60 can also take the test, although it is slightly modified for their age group.

Though Mr Lim excelled in almost all aspects of the test yesterday, he did not do well on the balance component. It was recommended that he start doing certain exercises at home and join K-pop or zumba classes, which could help improve his balance.

Madam Tan Sai Choo, 72, who also took the test yesterday, said: "Many daily activities can cause pain in the knee for me, so I try to limit my exercise. But the test and advice have given me more confidence to try new exercises."

Janice Tai

•For more information on the test sessions, visit MyActiveSG.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2016, with the headline 'New fitness test helps seniors work out best exercise for them'. Print Edition | Subscribe