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Singapore, Asian Opinions

Loh Keng Fatt
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Singapore, Asian Opinions

Hooray for sports credits, it's off to the gym for me

The Straits Times | Loh Keng Fatt | Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I have been paying about $70 a month for the last eight years but the gym offers convenience since it is just a five-minute drive from my home.

SINGAPORE - My membership in a private gym will end soon and I was debating if I should renew it, given that I am not totally happy with the battered state of the machines and indifferent staff.

I have been paying about $70 a month for the last eight years but the gym offers convenience since it is just a five-minute drive from my home.

Now, I can finally make a decision - I intend to take my patronage elsewhere after an unexpected option opened up.

It comes in the form of the Government's ActiveSG programme, which gives every citizen and permanent resident $100 worth of credits to use in public sports facilities islandwide if they sign up.

In my case, I am tempted by the very affordable $2.50 fee for each gym visit, which means I can look forward to 40 sessions if I turn up once a week.

A relative - who sent an SMS message telling everyone in our WhatsApp group to take advantage of the scheme - is thinking of using the credits to book badminton courts, while others said they will opt for swimming sessions.

Like many Singaporeans, they were physically active when they were younger but once they got married and had to juggle family and work commitments, they only occasionally go for a jog in the neighbourhood or cycle in parks in Punggol and the East Coast Park at most.

But with the allure of having $100 to spend, many of my relatives have signed up for ActiveSG and we have been discussing how best to utilise the credits; which sports facility offers the best and most convenient services; and where to shop for exercise gear to go with the new-found zest for keeping fit.

My colleague said he knows of no other government in the world that dangles such a juicy carrot to promote a more active lifestyle - and the response has indeed been wonderful.

About 260,000 people have signed up since ActiveSG was rolled out some three weeks ago.

The credits can also be used to book lessons while a portal allows like-minded folk to contact one another to participate in group sports or competitions - a move that can only lubricate efforts to build community bonds.

Customised programmes for older folk are also on the cards and are timely, given the growing ageing population.

Some friends during a discussion on the scheme threw up several proposals to get more people to sign up.

Some folk may no longer be physically able to engage in sports or may have access to other avenues - they could be members of a club - to indulge in sports.

Hence, my friends wondered if the credits can also be used to, say, subsidise the cost of attending a football match, whether S-League or the Malaysian Super League. After all, it gets people out of the home and lets them become active in supporting local sportsmen.

The S-League, which reported an average attendance of about 1,000 last season, certainly would benefit from any uptick in attendance.

Looking ahead, my friends wondered too if the credits can be used to help fund the cost of tickets for next year's SEA Games, which Singapore will host.

Athletes love to perform before a crowd and it will be wonderful to see packed arenas and give sportsmen from other ASEAN countries happy memories to take home.

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