The State Of Exercise, Fitness And Physical Activity In Singapore

November 10, 2010

Image for group exerciseNot too long ago, there were reports in the media that there has been a marked rise in the number of people in Singapore engaging in some form of recreational exercise or fitness activity compared to a decade ago.

A quick glance at the rising membership in commercial gyms and public fitness centers, as well as the large morning and evening crowds at outdoor stadiums and neighbourhood parks tend to lead one to an affirmative conclusion as well.

However, on closer scrutiny, there is more to it than meets the eye.

Though the absolute number of people engaging in fitness and exercise programs in Singapore may have gone up over the years, the actual QUALITY of the activities and programs themselves seem to have yield little change over time.

And when we say QUALITY of an exercise/fitness program, we are inherently talking about the following aspects:

1. the proper EXECUTION of an exercise or fitness activity,

2. the PROGRAM DESIGN behind any physical activity,

3. the ADHERENCE to basic scientific exercise/fitness principles. 

Looking at point (1), most trained Singapore Fitness Professionals would unanimously agree and lament at the deplorable state of exercise execution found among most gym participants and recreational exercise enthusiasts. 

From basic movements like lifting a barbell off the ground, to the running gait of a jogger, to the execution of a  simple body-weight push-up, most trained Singapore fitness trainers and exercise coaches would winch in horror, or even stifle a giggle – depending on their mood on that day – at the sight of amateur recreational fitness enthusiasts executing any such a move through its entire kinetic chain.

Poor technique, improper body posturing, inadequate range of movement and ballistic (bouncy) bodily motions are just some of the more common execution problems encountered island-wide in ANY gym, fitness corner or outdoor park.

And if we take into account point (2), things seem even bleaker.

Most Singapore enthusiasts seem to have no, or at best, little idea of what constitutes a  proper program design. Their exercise choices and activities are often a haphazard mix-match of movements plucked from their own unscientific observations of what others are doing around them – a phenomenon the Fitness Profession candidly call “Monkey See, Monkey Do”, or adapted from unreliable sources such as off-the-rack glossy fitness tabloids and magazines.

The sad, but true state of affairs is such that the majority of fitness and exercise participants in Singapore has very little knowledge of, or even completely no idea what muscle groups a particular exercise is targeting at, or what fitness component they are training with any given movement, or how to properly string a series or sequence of movements together for maximum synergistic effect!!!

And when we put point (3) together, the current state of affairs worsens considerably. 

Exercise is a SCIENCE, and that’s why they are academic disciplines such as Exercise Science, Sports Science, Human Movement, Biomechanics etc. Unfortunately, the underlying principles behind these fields of study are often thrown out of the window by most recreational fitness enthusiasts in their fitness pursuits – very often to their own detriment.

A point to note: one does NOT have to be an Olympic Athlete or engage in serious Competitive Sports in order to apply these principles or benefit from them. Most standard exercise and fitness principles such as those pertaining to Exercise Intensity, Exercise Frequency and even the Concept of Specificity – should form the backbone of ANY exercise or fitness program – even those of a  recreational value.

But, unfortunately, as far as the Singapore Fitness Culture is concerned, this is sorely lacking.

What then is the panacea to these ailments affecting the QUALITY of the fitness or physical programs of our recreational athletes?

We think the answer is EDUCATION.

Education in the sense of ownership and responsibility on the part of the athletes and exercisers concerned to read up and educate themselves on the whats and hows of exercising. Frankly, what’s the point of working-out at all – when quality is ABSENT in any fitness program – as one is only further reinforcing bad exercise habits, putting one at risk of injuries, and getting further away from one’s original fitness goals? 

Alternatively, if self-education is too much to ask of our recreational athletes and fitness enthusiasts, then they should seriously consider the services of professionals: like personal trainers, fitness coaches or sports performance specialists to help them improve the QUALITY of their workouts.

Only if, and when, such steps are taken to improve the QUALITY of physical activities among our population, then can Singapore truly say that its citizens are benefitting from the exercises and physical activities that they are engaged in.

Otherwise, the increase in participation numbers is merely a facade and a false dawn.