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Get Active, Aim for 150 Minutes a Week, Anytime, Anywhere, to be Healthy

Singapore, 21 August 2011: Aiming for 150 minutes of physical activity per week can provide substantial health benefits for adults and older adults. However, it is important to note that even some physical activity is better than none, and more is better than some. These are the latest recommendations of the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) National Physical Activity (PA) Guidelines. The guidelines have been developed with the counsel of the National Physical Activity Consensus Group, which comprises both local and international experts in the fields of health promotion and physical activity.

2. Health benefits of regular physical activity include a 20 - 50% reduced risk of premature death, incidence of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, stroke, high blood pressure, colon cancer and breast cancer, to name just a few.

Total Physical Activity

3. The HPB PA Guidelines provide clear physical activity recommendations for three groups of people: i) 19-49 years old, ii) 50 years and above, iii) individuals who are seeking to prevent weight gain and obesity. Previous guidelines for those 19 years and above advocate 30 minutes of physical activity per day, for five or more days in a week. The HPB PA Guidelines now recommend a total holistic approach to physical activity advocating physical activity “anytime, anywhere”.

4. The HPB PA Guidelines promote a culture of active living including lifestyle, aerobic and strength activities which can be done at home, at work, during commuting and during leisure time. To achieve substantial health benefits, the minimum physical activity session should be at least 10 minutes. The 10-minute sessions can be accumulated throughout the week to achieve 150 minutes of moderate intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity a week. (One minute of vigorous intensity physical activity = about two minutes of moderate intensity physical activity).

5. A moderate intensity aerobic activity causes a noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. For instance, adults should still be able to talk but do not have enough breath to sing while engaging in brisk walking at low-impact aerobics at 5-7 km/h, or dancing, etc. A vigorous intensity aerobic activity causes a large increase in breathing and heart rate. For instance, adults should still be able to say a few words but are not out of breath while engaging in jogging, swimming, etc. (Please refer to Annex 1 for details and examples of moderate- and vigorous- aerobic physical activity.)

6. Lifestyle activities such as washing the car, mopping the floor, or taking the stairs, will also count towards the 150 minutes weekly goal. Even for those with hectic work schedules, being physically active can be achieved anytime, anywhere – at home, at work, during commuting and during leisure time.

7. Aside from the weekly goal of 150 minutes of lifestyle activity and aerobic activity, for additional health benefits, strength activities must be done on two or more days a week. Strength activities include muscle-,bone- and joint-strengthening activities (such as lifestyle strength training activities - washing the car, mopping the floor, taking the stairs and carrying groceries) and some mind body exercises (Tai Chi, Health Qigong, Yoga, Pilates). Strength activities should involve major muscle groups. (Please refer to Annex 1 for details.)

8. HPB recommends that beginners should gradually work towards meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines, including proper warm up and cool down of five – 10 minutes. Lastly, individuals with limitations, disabilities, or with chronic conditions should follow their doctor’s advice on the volume and types of physical activities that are best for them.

9. Mr Ang Hak Seng, Chief Executive Officer, HPB said: “According to the recent National Health Survey, 40% of Singapore residents do not exercise enough and do not meet the minimum physical activity guidelines for good health.

10. “By 2020, we target to have at least 70% of Singapore residents meet the physical activity guidelines. This will put Singapore in the top quartile of OECD countries.”

11. “A commonly cited reason for not exercising is the lack of time. We can help overcome this by building physical activity into our daily routine. To enable Singapore residents to exercise anytime and anywhere, HPB has developed modular exercise routines, such as The Quick 6 Strength Exercises which can be done at their convenience. We have also made it convenient to exercise by working with partners to enhance our physical environments to encourage physical activity, for example, staircases at MRT stations are dressed to attract commuters to use the stairs. To make it even easier, HPB has developed the Fitness Tracker application to help track one’s fitness levels. All these collective efforts will enable Singapore residents to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity to gain health benefits,” elaborated Mr Ang.

Conducive Environments for Active Lifestyle

12. To create environments that are conducive for physical activity, HPB is working closely with the National Parks Board (NP) to display signage in several parks and a park connector, showing information related to a safe and effective briskwalking session. Distance markers will also make it easy and convenient for briskwalkers to complete their 2 km fitness assessment route at various parks.

13. Health promoting MRT stations throughout Singapore will have strategically placed stickers to encourage commuters to take the stairs instead of the lifts or escalators. Commuters can also view snippets of the new Great Singapore Workout on the iView smart screens at SMRT stations islandwide. Boon Lay MRT station is the first health promoting MRT station.

14. A total of nine shopping mall chains have also been designated as Health Promoting Malls that provide healthy lifestyle activities for mall shoppers and residents in their vicinity. The Malls have pledged on-going commitment to introduce more activities that can support an active lifestyle for shoppers. Activities at the malls include mall walks and community aerobics.

Pervasive Physical Activity Programmes

15. Physical Activity programmes will be pervasive in the community to ensure that healthy living is an easy option. To date, in partnership with the People’s Association (PA), there are a total of 586 Brisk Walking Clubs with more than 90,000 members; and 103 Health Qigong Interest Groups with more than 6,500 members. These were set up to promote healthy lifestyle among residents while forging bonds and making friends through common interests. Brisk walking and health qigong clubs are currently available throughout Singapore.

16. HPB is also working closely with the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) to launch a Workout Series @ Workplaces programme, aimed at encouraging sports participation among women working adults in the corporate environment. The programme, which brings total fitness to the doorstops of corporate Singapore, is specifically targeted to facilitate the demands of maintaining a healthy and sporty lifestyle, and to incorporate a sporting culture at the work place. HPB will also be working with the SSC to champion the Vision 2030 goal, which is presently at the public feedback phase, to explore how the true value of sport can help develop the physical and mental well being of individuals and the community at large.

Fitness Tracking

17. To enable individuals to easily assess their own health and fitness levels and make physical activity a daily lifestyle choice, HPB has developed a fitness tracking mobile phone application to provide immediate fitness results after a short run or brisk walk.

18. The “Fitness Tracker” application computes the Aerobic Fitness Score (AFS), which is an indicator of one’s fitness level based on a 2.4 km run or 2.0 km walk. The AFS categorization is based on evidence from international studies and the joint research by HPB and the Republic Polytechnic to validate the 2.0 km brisk walk assessment. The Fitness Tracker will provide personalised safe and effective physical activity advice for the individual to improve his/her fitness level.

19. Another user-friendly feature of the application is the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q). PAR-Q is also available on the Fitness Tracker for participants to review their health status and it will help determine if they need to consult a medical doctor for additional advice, before embarking on any exercise programme.

Newly set up Physical Activity Centre of Excellence (PACE)

20. HPB has now set up the Physical Activity Centre of Excellence (PACE) to strengthen the efforts to reduce Singapore’s physical inactivity. PACE will spearhead research and partnerships to build an eco-system that promotes physical activity.

21. The Physical Activity Centre of Excellence will be a thought leader, national and regional expert in the domain of physical activity, as well as innovate to make physical activity seamless and convenient. Through continuing education and training, PACE will educate and empower fitness and allied health professionals and the community. There will be programmes to drive the proliferation of physical activity in the people, public and private sectors.

22. The HPB PA Guidelines can be downloaded from from 22 August 2011.

Annex 1 – National Physical Activity Guidelines for 19-49 years old, and for 50 years old and above (Key highlights from Summary Guide)
Annex 2 – Parks / Park Connector where distance markers can be found
Annex 3 - Health Promoting Malls Annex 4 - Health Promoting Mall Recipients

Issued by Health Promotion Board