Talk to Madam Liang Fui Ching and you’ll be motivated to put on your sport gear to join her and exercise. At 59 years old, this homemaker is a sprightly lady whom you may have noticed around the neighbourhood.
A firm believer in exercising as the key to good health, she started her routine about three years ago. She does calisthenics with like-minded residents at the foot of her block. Each time, she jogs for about half an hour. She also climbs the stairs regularly.
Her exercise takes her not only around the fitness stations near her block but also to jog in the stadium and parks in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. Recently, she has started on weekly exercise sessions near her block on every Wednesday under the BitPAL fitness programme which was brought to her attention by the RC manager.
It involves simple but beneficial exercises like stretching and jumping, under the guidance of an instructor. Each session is about an hour.
”The BitPAL exercise is interesting and promotes good health. I would recommend all my friends to participate,” she said. She has subsequently rounded up about eight friends to join her.
Madam Liang said exercise has helped to improve several aspects of her life. It has helped her lose excess weight. The exercises have improved her fitness and made her feel stronger, such that she is able to go about her daily chores with little problems. Her joints are in good condition, enabling her to continue her habitual climbing of stairs. Thus far, she does not have underlying health problems, and does not fall sick often.
Exercise has also made her feel happier, as it is something that she enjoys and considers interesting. Particularly, it has enhanced her social life. The group exercise sessions are opportunities to make new friends and forge bonds with the neighbours.
Madam Liang lives with her son and husband at Blk 238, Lorong 1. She used to make a living retailing clothing for her employer, but she now stays at home to care for her family members and manage the household. Unless she goes out, she cooks all the meals for the family. She does not see the need to abide by a strict diet, but she makes it a point to avoid unhealthy food. “I try not to prepare fried and oily dishes. I make sure that there are plenty of fruits and vegetables. Steamed fish is one of the dishes that I regularly prepare,” she said.
It is often said that from morning to night, a homemaker’s daily work is never-ending, and this is also a commonly cited excuse to not exercise. But Madam Liang has proven that thanks to the close vicinity of exercise programmes and facilities in the estate, it is not at all difficult to make time to keep fit and healthy.
Miss Ong Lian Choon is one who always looks forward in life. Single and living alone in her flat at Toa Payoh Lorong 1, she is someone who is prudent and plans her life carefully.
She used to live with her parents and a brother at her flat but they have since passed away. She misses them but she doesn’t brood about it. Instead she is upbeat and enthusiastic about life. A 58 year- old retiree, she indulges her free time in regular exercise, karaoke nights with friends at Toa Payoh South Community Club, and folk- dancing on weekends at Braddell Heights Community Club.
She even makes time to attend basic English class and is now able to converse fairly well in the language despite being previously more comfort- able with Hokkien.
When she was younger, Miss Ong used to sew and had also worked in a factory. Subsequently, she also worked at McDonalds. Work life wasn’t easy for her; it was tiring and her body ached at the end of each day. Through the years, she diligently saved her salary and hence is able to lead a comfortable retirement.
Now she focuses on taking it easy, keeping herself healthy and looking after her appearance. Her father had dementia and mother had cancer before they passed on. Her brother suffered from a neurological disorder for 20 years before succumbing to his illness. Nevertheless, Miss Ong is not at all worried. When asked why she started to exercise actively, she chuckled and said “Because I’m fat. That’s the only reason.”
Today, at least three times a week, together with her friend who lives at Lorong 7, they would walk from about 8.30 am to 10 am, covering the distance from Toa Payoh Lorong 1 to Lorong 7.
While Miss Ong enjoys walking she has no preference on a type of exercise. Recently it was her neighbour who urged her to sign up for the weekly BitPAL group exercise programme. An instructor would lead them on how to to stretch and strengthen their muscles. She found it beneficial and plans to ask her friend who lives at Lorong 7 to join her.
Miss Ong has only started to exercise actively since a year ago when she stopped work and her efforts have already proven fruitful. She has checked her weight gain. Unlike many of her older friends who do not exercise, she is able to squat and climb the stairs without any difficulty. She feels healthy and hardly falls ill. Emotionally, she gets a strong sense of gratification and accomplishment when she perspires after an exercise.
What about her diet? She replied, “My friend only eats two scoops of rice with lots of vegetables. There’s no way I can feel full with that!” None- theless, inspired, she tries to eat more vegetables and a little less meat. Breakfast is a healthy affair of oats with just a little sugar.
“Young people make themselves so busy that they have no time for exercise, and they get all kinds of aches and pains. I know that because I used to be like that too. That was when I realised I should stop over-working myself,” she said as she shared her concern for people who don’t make time for exercise.
She is also into folk dancing since four years ago and is today a walking example of why it is never too late or too old to get active.
– These interviews were done for a lifestyle feature about Bishan-Toa Payoh’s BitPAL fitness programme