Singaporeans face an uphill task in fighting health problems like diabetes because of their lifestyle choices and dietary habits. To tackle this challenge, NurtureSG, a government task force, is ensuring that efforts start from a young age. The fear is that obesity in children can linger into adulthood and become entrenched. In the course of a consultation exercise the task force conducted last year, participants spoke of the need for children to eat right, keep fit, build mental resilience and sleep sufficiently. These are everyday concerns shared by many parents, but such tasks are often easier said than done.
On a national scale, health needs are magnified because Singapore's main resource is its people. It is encouraging, therefore, that schools are acting on those concerns. Sedentary routines being a prime culprit contributing to health problems in later life, schools are making athletic equipment and facilities available to encourage active play during recess and after school. Apart from physical education classes and co-curricular activities, there should also be room for unstructured play. Unlike competitive sports, which usually call on a few to prepare physically and mentally for an event or effort, active play can involve everyone and disregard skill levels. It demands nothing of the young but their innate desire to play.
It might seem odd to older Singaporeans that children, including toddlers and pre-schoolers, have to be nudged into playing vigorously. But this is necessary because of the grip of digital media and constrained urban spaces. Developing fine motor skills, with the use of hands and fingers, is not enough. Children need to use their large muscles too, in order to strengthen bones and muscle groups and to build overall fitness. Given the need for all to be active for a period of time daily, families ought to consciously plan their day so an enjoyable activity becomes an essential part of it.