The family that exercises together stays together. HealthAnswers checks out games that will give a good stretch to the ties that bind!
Dr Michael Chia
Assistant Professor & Exercise Physiologist
School of Physical Education, NIE, NTU
Family ties are best nurtured when members spend time together, and that includes doing physical activity or exercising together. You don't just improve your family relations laughing at each other's gamesmanship, you can reap many benefits that come with working out and living well, such as a healthy heart, improved levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduced body fat, plus an improved outlook in life.
Once you set an example by picking up a sport, you are sowing the seeds for the younger generation to remain physically active when they grow up. And if you have elderly folk in the family who are embarrassed to work out because they feel "too old," your move will show them it's not too late to start on a more physically active lifestyle.
Start On The Right Note
Before embarking on any form of physical activity, it is important for the more senior members of the family especially, to go through a checklist to see if increased physical activity is a threat to your current health.
|I have had heart trouble in the past.
|I suffer frequently from chest pains or a family member has had heart trouble.
|I often feel faint or dizzy.
|I have recently had surgery.
|I have bone, ligament or tendon problems.
|I am currently pregnant.
|I am more than 10 kg overweight.
|I am currently taking medication.
|I am unaccustomed to exercise.
|Is there a good physical reason not mentioned here that you should not follow an activity programme?
If you or any family member answer "yes" to any of the above statements, or if you are unsure about your or their health status, you should consult your doctor before embarking on any exercise or activity programme.
1) Leisure walks
Walking is a very safe form of physical activity that all members of the family can take to. Walking places very little strain on the joints and works all the major muscle groups. If done briskly and regularly for at least 20 minutes at a stretch, it helps to maintain cardiovascular health.
Places where you can do leisure walks include reservoirs (e.g. MacRitchie), public parks (e.g. Pasir Ris Park), and beaches (e.g. East Coast). The more adventurous can also venture to offshore islands like Pulau Ubin.
- Walk only if you are feeling well.
- To avoid the heat, walk at dawn or sunset.
- Remember that walking should leave you feeling invigorated, not exhausted.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing, and make sure it's light-coloured when you walk at night.
- Invest in a pair of comfortable walking shoes or sports shoes.
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after the walk.
2) Swimming at a pool near you
Swimming is another great cardiovascular and muscle conditioning activity that the family can do together especially over the weekend.
In our very hot tropical weather, being in water keeps you cool, relaxed and invigorated. The buoyancy that the water offers can be very therapeutic. As the water largely supports the body weight, swimming is a suitable form of activity for people with joint complaints and backache, overweight individuals and even expectant mothers.
Young people and adults can also sign up for swimming lessons with the lifeguards at the pool. If you live in a housing estate, there is usually a public swimming near you. Access to such public baths cost no more that $1.30 per entry for adults and only 70 cents per entry for school children. On weekdays, the rates are even cheaper!
Tips at the pool:
- Follow all the recommended practices at the pool (e.g. no footwear beyond a certain point, shower and wash your feet before entering the pool)
- Wear sunscreen to protect against the harmful rays of the sun. Reapply every half hour.
- Invest in a pair of swimming goggles and appropriate swimwear.
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after swimming.
3) Cycling, skating or jogging at a park near you or at the beach
Cycling and skating are excellent cardiovascular activities that also promote agility and balance. There are many kiosks in public parks (e.g. East Coast Parkway, Pasir Ris Park, Bishan Park) that rent out bicycles and skates for the young and the young at heart, but do make sure that they are in good serviceable condition.
Some may prefer to use their own skates or bicycles. Most parks have jogging routes and distances clearly marked out. There are also outdoor fitness stations where the family can stop to work on their muscular endurance (e.g. pull-up and sit-up stations) and flexibility exercises whilst young children can play spend time at the designated play areas. Young parents with toddlers can wheel their children in prams and feed the fish at the ponds.
Tips for cyclists, skaters,and joggers:
- Wear the right clothes. For skaters, that means a safety helmet and the appropriate knee and elbow pads; and a comfortable pair of running shoes for joggers.
- Always warm-up before the activity (spend a few minutes to do some stretching exercises) and cool-down after the activity.
- Keep to the designated paths for cycling, running or skating, albeit not all parks have them all clearly designated. However, exercise common sense and basic courtesy, especially when the park is crowded.
- Drink liberally before, during and after the activity.
4) Learn To Play A Game
The Singapore Sports Council (SSC) organises 'Learn-To-Play' schemes that provide families with the opportunity to learn a particular sport and play it regularly for life. For a nominal fee, you can choose from a plethora of sports and activity pursuits such as aerobics (regular, aqua or bhangra, taekwondo, boxercise), badminton, gateball, gymnastics, netball, pickleball, rowing, soft volleyball, squash, snorkelling, taiji, woodball, floorball, ground golf, mini tennis, petangue, qigong, silat senaman, sport climbing, yoga, softball, touch rugby and yoga. Brochures on the individual sports organised under this scheme are available at the SSC and community clubs. For more information about the sports offered under this scheme, visit the SSC web-site or contact your nearest community club.
5) Join a sporting event
Throughout the year, Community Sports Clubs for each constituency organises many sports, fitness and recreational activities for the whole community. This may include mass walks and jogs, swimming and cycling outings. Constituency Family Sports days are also organised and these provide for generations within a family to come together to have fun through physical activity and sport.
Alternatively, families can sign up for mass sporting events held annually such as the National Jog/Walk event, National Swim, National Leisure Cycling, Great Singapore Workout, Fitness Encounter and the New Paper Big Walk. For information about the next National Sporting Event and how to sign up, contact the Singapore Sports Council or your Community Club.
For families who are more fitness-inclined, the Singapore Sports Council also organises periodic fitness assessment schemes such as the National Physical Fitness Award Challenge, the Sports For Life Run, the Sports For Life Walk, and the National Survival Swimming Award. "A Fit Family is also a Fun Family" is an apt slogan to promote among all Singaporeans.
6) Join a fitness centre
Many of them need not cost a bomb in terms of membership fees. NTUC Income for example has 25 fitness centres found in community clubs, and their fees are well within the means of many families.
These Fitness Centres offer an impressive range of fitness equipment such as bicycle and rowing ergometers, treadmills, stair-climbers, weight machines and free-weights comparable to some smaller private fitness centres. Members pay a low entrance fee of $100 followed by a monthly subscription fee of no more than $30. Students' and senior citizens' subscription rates are only $20 per month. Experienced instructors are present at all centres to assist in the use of the equipment and are also on hand to offer individually tailored fitness programmes on request. Another attractive feature of the Fitness Centre membership scheme is that you can exercise at any of the centres located all over Singapore in air-conditioned comfort. There are also special schemes catering to the needs of senior citizens.
For enquiries, you can call 337 1511 or visit their web-site (www.income.com.sg).
Get A Start Now!
Parents owe it to your children in setting a good example as research shows that young people take to their parents' activity habits when they grow up.
In a recent Sports Council survey, senior citizens cited their disability as a reason for not being more physically active. Many do not realise that often, the disability is exacerbated by increased patterns of physical inactivity.
The benefits of a healthier and more physically active lifestyle are for every member of the Singapore family without exception. Act now, a family can have fun and get fit together!
Date reviewed: 04 May 2000