Image: The Straits Times
In the last two years, retiree Lucy Tay has turned into a fitness enthusiast – thanks to free exercise sessions offered by the Health Promotion Board.
On Monday mornings, the 66-year- old is at a yoga therapy class at True Yoga in Collyer Quay. On Tuesday mornings, she works out at a Body Balance class, which combines yoga and pilates, at True Fitness in Chevron House.
And the next day, she is kickboxing at fitness centre R-evolution in VivoCity.
If she has enough energy left for the week, you might find her at a zumba class at DeFITnation in Serangoon, and a yoga session at True Fitness in Tampines.
All these classes are available under the Health Promotion Board’s pro- gramme, Sunrise In The City, which was launched in February 2013.
The initiative offers free hour-long classes to the public, most of which take place on weekday mornings between 7 and 9am.
This year, the board has tied up with 13 gyms in 26 locations across Singapore to offer classes that range from yoga, zumba, K-pop dance and circuit training.
The gyms include popular chains True Fitness and Fitness First, as well as boutique gyms and yoga studios such as Physical ABuse in Prinsep Street and Hom Yoga at Orchard Central.
There are more than 50 sessions a week and class sizes range from 40 to 50 participants. There are no restrictions on fitness levels or age.
The Health Promotion Board pays for the sessions but a spokesman declined to reveal the costs.
A one-day visitor pass at Fitness First gyms costs $50, while a drop-in class at Hom Yoga is $40.
A board spokesman says: “Sunrise In The City aims to provide a window of opportunity on weekday mornings for working adults and individuals to energise themselves before a day’s work.”
In 2013, the programme was targeted at adults who work in the Central Business District, and its four workout sessions were at venues around Raffles Place, Millenia Walk and Clarke Quay.
But it has proved so popular that it has expanded to include lunchtime classes in gyms located in the heartland and weekend classes.
There are now 3,000 subscribers, compared to 200 in 2013.
It is fastest fingers first as slots are snatched up very quickly. Interested participants can sign up for the classes, which are released every quarter, on the board’s website (www.hpb.gov.sg).
Each person can sign up for a maximum of 12 slots a month.
Participants can also use the gyms’ shower facilities after class. At True Fitness in Chevron House and True Yoga in Ocean Financial Centre, they can even continue to use the fitness machines till 9.30am.
For participants such as Madam Tay, the classes are a good way to exercise and reap health benefits.
She says: “I started attending the classes in 2013. The exercise sessions have helped to lower my cholesterol.”
But she says she has not managed to sign up for the ones offered by DeFITnation in Serangoon Central, which is near her home, as slots are taken very fast. So she goes for the classes offered at gyms in Ang Mo Kio and Prinsep Street.
For the participating gyms, the programme is a good way to get new faces into their premises.
Physical ABuse founder Edmund Tan says: “It’s beneficial for us as the public can get to know about our classes and consider our services.”
The gym has partnered the Health Promotion Board since November last year and chooses quieter periods in the mornings and during lunchtime to hold the free classes. Mr Tan adds that 10 to 20 people who have taken the free classes have signed up for membership at the gym.
However, because the classes are free, no-shows are frequent.
The Health Promotion Board estimates the average attendance at 70 per cent. The gyms Life! spoke to say classes would still go on.
Dr Lynn Yeo, director of R-evolution, which has been part of the programme since November last year, says: “The gym is not much impacted by the no-shows. We still pay our instructors and put aside the space for the class.”
The Health Promotion Board says that it has a “house rule” stating that a participant who misses a class more than three times would not be able to book classes for the next four weeks. However, it has not been required to enforce the rule so far.
The programme has drawn mainly women aged between 25 and 49, though higher intensity exercises such as circuit training and body combat attract men as well.
Mr Jude Sun, 28, a product controller in the banking industry, has been attending KPopX Fitness classes, body combat and body balance classes since January. He stopped going for the KPopX Fitness sessions when he realised that he did not enjoy dancing, but continued with the other two activities.
He says: “The intensity of these classes is high. For example, body combat is not an easy sport, with punches and high knee raises.
“Some of these classes are mostly attended by women, but it shouldn’t be an issue. The guys going to these kind of classes might find it hard to keep up with some of the women.”
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on March 6, 2015. For similar stories, go to http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.