An insightful experience into personal fitness at the Active Health Lab

Straits Times sports journalist Lester Wong goes through a standard onboarding procedure at the newly opened Active Health Lab at Heartbeat@Bedok.

SINGAPORE - I was not sure what to expect going into the media preview session at the newly opened Active Health Lab in Heartbeat@Bedok last Friday morning (Feb 2).

The day before, two colleagues had concluded that I was the fittest at The Straits Times' Sport desk and therefore best-suited for the fitness screening by virtue of being young, relatively active and free of major injuries or unhealthy eating habits.

So here I was, hoping not to embarrass myself too much, with the photographer and videographer ready to pounce on any misstep.

Looking after me for the session was active health expert Kenneth McGeough.

The Active Health Lab is part of the Active Health movement run by Sport Singapore with the aim of promoting ownership of one's health.

The Bedok Active Health Lab was officially opened on Sunday (Feb 4) by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

It is the second such lab here after the first opened at Our Tampines Hub last August.

 

I was going through the on-boarding programme alone, which included fitness assessment, but he informed me the usual arrangement is in groups of up to 20 people from all walks of life.

After filling out a Par-Q (physical activity readiness questionnaire), I was shown how to measure my blood pressure and hip to waist ratio by McGeough at the test stations.

He explained that both are easy for people to measure and monitor on their own, and are helpful general indicators of physical well-being.

I was then led to a Bio-electrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) machine, which measures various health parameters by sending bio-electrical pulses through the body.

McGeough said the accuracy of BIA can vary but, for Active Health Lab, accessibility trumps accuracy as it is targeted at all Singaporeans.

The process was fuss-free and only required me to grip the machine's handles and remain still.

Within 30 seconds, I was done and a printed report told me I was in the normal range for most parameters save for body fat percentage, which at 21.1 per cent was on the high side, something I was surprised to find out.

The last part of the on-boarding programme was a functional mobility assessment taster.

For me, I was made to do deep squats (good) and hurdle steps (not so good), from which Kenneth prescribed exercises I can do at home to improve my hip mobility and overall balance.

Wobbling uncontrollably as I attempted the hurdle steps was a real eye-opener, as hip mobility was something I had never been conscious of as I moved about on a daily basis.

The on-boarding programme is free and is a prerequisite for subsequent fitness assessments.

 

Prices for these have yet to be fixed, as the Active Health Lab scheme is still in its pilot phase.

McGeough was kind enough to let me try one of the assessments, which measured my cardio-respiratory fitness on the treadmill. The VO2 max test measures the body's ability to consume oxygen and deliver it to the cells per minute.

The typical test involves a progressive ramping up of the treadmill's speed to tax the body's aerobic system to its limit, but this would constitute a risk to Singaporeans who may be older, unfit or have physical conditions. The test I did was considerably less strenuous.

I was hoping my result would flatter to deceive with the light intensity but had no such luck.

My estimated VO2 max was 44.2ml/kg per minute, which put me squarely in the poor range for a man still in his 20s.

McGeough was quick to emphasise I should not read too much into the numbers.

What was more important was for me to decide what I wanted to do from this point to improve my fitness, small incremental steps like climbing an extra flight of stairs every day.

That was what I liked most about the session - it brought ActiveSG's nationwide push for a more active Singapore down to the individual.

Different people will have different fitness needs and priorities, and the Active Health Lab programmes recognise that.

Now to see if I can actually live up to my "reputation" at work.