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Seniors get 'gym tonic' fix at Bishan Community Club

Sue-Ann Tan on 01 Nov 2018

The Straits Times


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Part-time pharmacist Tee Ah Lui may be 82, but she has an extra spring in her step these days, thanks to an exercise programme at Bishan Community Club.


Madam Tee has osteoporosis in the knee and hip, but the Gym Tonic programme she has been attending twice a week for the past three months has helped her to walk quickly and painlessly again.


She is one of 149 senior citizens who have completed the programme, which conducts strength training to improve functional ability.


The programme gets a boost as well. It moved yesterday from a temporary room to a permanent home at the community club.


It is the only Gym Tonic in a community club that is open to the public. Most of the other 25 are in eldercare facilities.


The Bishan programme, which was created in partnership with the Lien Foundation, started in April.


Each three-month course costs $180 for 24 sessions. Those who want more training can extend their participation to six months.


They get a report card and certificate at the end of the programme.


Madam Tee said: "I find it very suitable for older people like me because there is the support for us to lie down while we exercise and we will not fall.


"The machine also customises the weights, so we do not need to be afraid that we will overexert and tear our muscles."


Instead of weights, the gym equipment uses air compression, which is more elder-friendly.


The machines can monitor how the user is faring and adjust the weight accordingly. They also track the user's progress.


Two trainers teach participants how to use the machines and ensure they are exercising safely.


Madam Tee said: "I used to walk in a rather bow-legged way and I couldn't stand straight. After three months here, I can walk faster and I don't have so much muscle cramping any more when I stretch. It has really helped and I'm so happy I started doing this."


The Gym Tonic programme is the latest in a range of initiatives introduced by the Bishan East-Thomson Grassroots Organisations to help the elderly. More than 40 per cent of residents in the area are above 50.


Mr Chong Kee Hiong, adviser to Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Grassroots Organisations, said: "The key concern is that as people age, their knees get weaker, and falling is a problem."


Said Mr Chong, who is an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, at a media briefing: "Gym Tonic offers them a structured programme, after which they should know how to use other exercise equipment under their (HDB) blocks, for instance."


Other initiatives include free traditional Chinese medicine clinic services every Tuesday and Friday at the community club, and dementia-friendly campaigns.


Retired supervisor Yvonne Chng, who completed the training programme, 70, said: "It's all about keeping yourself going. You're never too old to start exercising."


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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