SINGAPORE - The Chinese New Year holiday period is usually a time for Singaporeans to indulge in good food and possibly, gain weight as a consequence.
Not for Joseph Chen. The 27-year-old has embarked on a journey to an active and healthy lifestyle with the help of an Active Health Lab.
Active Health is a movement by national sports agency Sport Singapore to encourage Singaporeans to take ownership of their health and wellness. The first Active Health Lab opened at Our Tampines Hub (OTH) in August, and has seen over 2,200 participate in its onboarding programme of a fitness assessment. A second facility at Heartbeat@Bedok opened last month.
In her speech during the debate on her ministry's budget in Parliament on Thursday (March 8), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said that four more labs across different regions will be opened this year.
She said: "In addition to the Active Health Labs at Our Tampines Hub and Heartbeat@Bedok, we plan to roll out four more at Bishan, Jurong East, Sengkang and Woodlands sports centres in the coming year, so that there is a lab accessible to every Singaporean.
"We also plan to introduce two Active Health Mobile Labs. Working with PA (People's Association), we will bring these Mobile Labs to the CC (community club) and RC (residents' committee) spaces as well as Sports-in-Precinct facilities."
Chen is one such success story from the Lab, as his weight has gone down from 125.8kg to 120.4kg in three months. He has also lost 5cm off his waistline after adopting healthy lifestyle habits on the advice of the Lab.
Back in December, he saw Dr Ng Hui Yu from the Tampines Family Medicine Clinic, which is also located at OTH, for treatment of a common cold.
It was then that Dr Ng observed other troubling ailments in her patient.
She recalled: "Joseph had underlying signs of high blood pressure. And with his weight problems, it could trigger something more serious. He needed diet control and lifestyle changes."
The clinic has a collaboration with the Lab, where patients can be referred for an hour-long free onboarding process that assesses their health in the following areas - physical activity, screen time, sleep pattern and diet.
Participants will pick up tips from the Lab's experts on how to progressively make small changes towards better health and wellness.
Chen, who spends at least eight hours a day staring at computer screens, owing to his job as an IT professional, took the guidance seriously.
He said: "The programme has been very beneficial for me. My lifestyle has changed for the better and the obvious sign of improvement so far has been weight loss. I feel more energetic."
Leaving his sedentary lifestyle behind, Chen now jogs thrice weekly at OTH's rooftop track, logging five to six laps around the 700m-long surface. Even on his rest days, he does stretching exercises to keep his muscles flexible.
Instead of a heavy breakfast of fried noodles for breakfast, he eats two eggs and a slice of toast. He also tries to eat wholemeal bread if it is available.
Previously a lover of bubble tea and sweet fizzy drinks, Chen now goes for healthier black tea with no sugar or milk. He studies the nutrition information on food packaging to ensure that his sugar intake is low.
For lunch and dinner, he pairs his rice with a serving of protein no bigger than his palm. And, if possible, he opts for brown rice.
On Tuesday, he was back at the Lab to see Active Health expert Jasmine Tan, who was pleased with his progress but had advised him to consider eating less chicken rice, which can have high fat content.
But it has been so far, so good for the cheerful Tampines resident.
He recalled with delight: "I noticed my pants are looser these days and I had to buy new pants for the Chinese New Year."