Cycling: Together, this couple embark on cycle of life

Civil servant, dementia-hit wife ride tandem bike regularly for physical and mental health

Terence Tan and his wife, Tan Sze Hian will be riding a tandem bike at this year's OCBC Cycle, held on May 11 and 12, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Since they got married 30 years ago, Terence Tan made it a point to do outdoor activities with his wife Tan Sze Hian, be it cycling, trekking or kayaking.

"It's a good way to get some exercise and get fit. Otherwise, she won't do anything," said civil servant Terence, 58.

But two years ago, these weekly activities took on an extra dimension after Sze Hian, also 58, was diagnosed with dementia.

Besides being a means to keep fit, exercising also boosts their mental strength, said Terence.

"There are not just physical benefits but mental benefits as well, as it makes you more resilient.

"Of course, it's more comfortable sitting indoors, but with exercise, you get the discipline to overcome inertia. And I believe that discipline is good for one's outlook in life.

"One can get depressed if you're ill and you can feel very defeated but, if you're disciplined, you will fight it and try to overcome it," he added, likening the process to training for a sports event.

"It's also a form of therapy for (my wife) and it's good to get her out of the house."

The couple cycle on a tandem bicycle every week and attend yoga and tai chi classes once a week.

They will also be participating in the 23km The Straits Times Ride at the OCBC Cycle on May 12.

"She has a bad sense of balance and bad knees. She used to limp but it has improved because cycling strengthens the joints and improves her motor skills," said Terence, who tried to teach his wife to cycle three years ago.

While she still cannot cycle on her own, she is capable of riding long distances on the tandem bike.

The furthest the couple have cycled is a round trip from their Hillview condominium to Coney Island and back, which is in excess of 50km, in September 2017.

"I enjoy cycling because I get to enjoy the scenery and you can go to many places on a bicycle. It's therapeutic," said Sze Hian, a retiree.

"Terence is a very safe rider, he doesn't speed. It's a good bonding activity for us."

Added Terence: "What I appreciate is that she has never complained when I bring her out, even though she's scared of the sun."

Besides her weekly classes and bike rides, Sze Hian also volunteers at a family service centre near their home thrice a week.

"It keeps her occupied, which is good because staying at home is the last thing she should do," said Terrence.

Sze Hian is looking forward to the 23km ride in May.

"I'm not scared because Terence knows my limit and I can always say no.

"But I want to do it. I don't know if I can but if you don't try, you'll never know."

Terence said they will start cycling on more slopes in preparation for the ride.

"I hope this story inspires people to start exercising. Right now, I'm just influencing one person, but I hope I can also influence other people. I hope this also gives people courage to overcome any difficulties they have."

• The OCBC Cycle is on May 11-12 at the Singapore Sports Hub. Sign up at

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