Bus drivers Starting Right to keep healthy

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor (centre) taking part in an exercise session with bus drivers at Bulim Bus Depot yesterday. The Starting Right programme is a partnership between Tower Transit and the Health Promotion Board to inculcate he
Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor (centre) taking part in an exercise session with bus drivers at Bulim Bus Depot yesterday. The Starting Right programme is a partnership between Tower Transit and the Health Promotion Board to inculcate healthy habits among bus captains.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Bus drivers are turning the corner and adapting healthier lifestyles under a new scheme launched by bus operator Tower Transit and the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Around 300 drivers have gone through Starting Right since it began in January.

It encourages them to choose healthier meals and exercise more.

The programme includes a "Walk for Health" challenge in which bus drivers are issued with pedometers to track the number of steps they take over two weeks. Top performers are rewarded with prizes such as supermarket vouchers.

All of Tower Transit's 700 bus captains will attend workshops that teach them how to read nutritional labels and do special stretching exercises customised to address the aches and pains that come with spending long hours behind the wheel.

They will also go through personal health screenings, in which health indicators such as their blood pressure and cholesterol levels will be taken.

"The programme's lessons are very practical," said bus captain Tay Hwee Yeow, 52. "I used to think brown rice was hard and tasteless, but we were taught how to cook it so that it becomes soft and fluffy."

Starting Right is one of more than 70 initiatives under the Government's $3 billion Action Plan for Successful Ageing.

Announced last year, it aims to reach 120,000 workers above the age of 40, across seven sectors, to inculcate healthy living habits. It has reached 12,000 workers so far.

The other transport operators, SMRT and SBS Transit, also have similar workplace health programmes, but it is understood that their programmes are not compulsory for their bus captains.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor visited the Bulim Bus Depot yesterday and took part in a mass exercise session with about 60 bus captains.

"Under this programme, we hope to empower workers to enable them to take care of their health... so that they can work longer or for as long as they wish," said Dr Khor.

Tower Transit's managing director Andrew Bujtor added: "If a bus captain is happy and healthy, he is more likely to be alert for extended periods on the road."

Mr Bujtor took Dr Khor on a tour of the HPB workshops and the depot's canteen, which serves a mix of brown and white rice and drinks with less sugar.

HPB chief executive Zee Yoong Kang said the overconsumption of white rice was one of the reasons so many Singaporeans suffer from diabetes, and consuming wholegrains such as brown rice is one way to combat the disease.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Bus drivers Starting Right to keep healthy'. Print Edition | Subscribe