UNFIT Singapore residents are fast running out of excuses not to exercise as fitness centres up their game with new services to cater to almost every need. From aerial yoga to muay thai, Cross-fit to gyrotonics, fitness providers see a growing demand for niche services beyond the basic weights and elliptical trainers set-up. Based on a 2011 National Sports Survey, 42 per cent of Singaporeans engage in exercise at least once a week, which adds up to a growing demand for gym memberships and bespoke services. Understanding that the elderly need a different fitness approach is an important first step – all in the realisation that active ageing is the only way for the future.

17 Jul 2015

The Business Times – Upping the fitness game

Some gyms are providing niche experiences for their members, from executives who want a more integrated concept to seniors who need equipment specially catered to them.

UNFIT Singapore residents are fast running out of excuses not to exercise as fitness centres up their game with new services to cater to almost every need. From aerial yoga to muay thai, Cross-fit to gyrotonics, fitness providers see a growing demand for niche services beyond the basic weights and elliptical trainers set-up.

Based on a 2011 National Sports Survey, 42 per cent of Singaporeans engage in exercise at least once a week, which adds up to a growing demand for gym memberships and bespoke services.

The best fitness proposition that Singapore is seeing this year though are the active centres for seniors above 55 years old. One of them is the S$2.2 million Gym Tonic project launched by the Lien Foundation involving 13 centres with more than 2,000 senior citizens.

The Gym Tonic project uses HUR strength training equipment from Finland – pneumatic gym machines that provide customised health training – and are also equipped with smart IT systems that capture data. Gym Tonic is led by local aged-care IT & technology company, Pulsesync, and backed by research by Finnish university Kokkola and interRAI, an international healthcare assessment system.

“With the data we’ve captured in our pilot programme last year, we can do a bit of benchmarking,” explains Ken Tan, founder and managing director of Pulsesync. “Then we have an idea of the potential of the elderly and what kind of intervention we need for them to reach it.

Gym Tonic’s approach is to use exercise as “medicine” – which is a sound philosophy as prevention is definitely better than cure.

Helping the elderly stay active

AS the population ages, some private gyms are gearing up to serve a growing clientele who can no longer bench press or go for high-intensity spinning classes.

Elsewhere, there are community-based programmes such as the Gym Tonic project by Lien Foundation. It involves over 2,000 seniors in 13 centres – helping to design appropriate exercise protocols and benchmarks for them.

The project targets those who are frail and idle, and those with high risk of falls, says Ken Tan, one of Gym Tonic’s project leaders. “We put these three groups of elderly to exercise, and track their progress with technology – looking at muscle strength and balance. The reason we focus on strength training is that it gives the fastest outcome and result,” he explains, adding that motor skills and nutrition will subsequently be looked at.

Mr Tan points out that this is a concept that has been around for a decade, but previously, only at rented HDB flats and run by Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs). Now, it is serving the studio apartments which house seniors who have downsized but are still financially independent. Each centre would serve about 50 studio apartments, he adds.

“While the government hasn’t given us subsidies, our rent is lower and 55 per cent of it must be for non-commercial activities,” says Mr Tan.

Understanding that the elderly need a different fitness approach is an important first step – all in the realisation that active ageing is the only way for the future.