New physical activity guidelines issued, including advice for pregnant women, people with disabilities

SINGAPORE — In a bid to get the public to raise their fitness levels, the authorities have issued a new set of physical activity guidelines that included, for the first time, recommendations for pregnant and postpartum women, as well as people with disabilities.

The new guidelines, which were officially launched at Canberra Plaza on Sunday (June 12), will be incorporated into all Health Promotion Board (HPB) and Sport Singapore (SportSG) physical activity programmes.

Currently, there are more than 2,700 physical activity sessions by both HPB and SportSG every week, the two organizations said in response to TODAY’s queries.

Noting that scientific evidence has progressed tremendously since the last version of Singapore’s physical activity guidelines were issued in 2011, Dr Chiang Hock Woon, the deputy chief executive officer of SportsSG, said he hopes that the new guidelines will address current needs.

“For example, we have catered information relevant for preschoolers, pregnant women, seniors and people with disabilities,” he said.

“These are very important, so that the guidelines appeal to everyone and meet the needs for different segments. Hopefully it will help everyone level up and believe that they can embrace a healthier, active lifestyle.”

Under the new guidelines, pregnant and postpartum women are encouraged to limit the amount of time spent being sedentary by engaging in physical activity of any intensity.

They are also encouraged to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week and incorporate muscle strengthening activities and gentle stretching.

In response to TODAY’s queries about suitable exercises for women in different trimesters, Dr Ben Tan, the lead adviser in the Advisory Committee for the Singapore Physical Activity Guidelines, said that detailed exercise guidelines during pregnancy are issued by the Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore.

For instance, the society recommends that women in their second and third trimester should avoid lying supine when exercising as it may lead to hypotension.

“The guidelines serve as the broad, overarching guidelines, and for greater depth, users are directed to their doctors, who will be guided to the in-depth guidelines,” said Dr Tan, who is also the head of SingHealth Duke-NUS Sport & Exercise Medicine Centre.

Guidelines for preschoolers are also more specific now, with activity recommendations for three age groups.

For example, those aged one and younger are encouraged to participate in interactive floor-based activities for a minimum of 30 minutes a day while those between one and two years old should spend at least 180 minutes doing a variety of physical activity of any intensity, spread throughout the day.

Adults aged 18 to 64 should now aim for at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, compared to the previous guideline of accumulating 150 minutes with minimum bouts of 10 minutes of physical activity.

Similarly, people with disabilities are encouraged to engage in physical activities every day, including light intensity activities, as well as aim for at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.

Mr Mohamad Farhan Ismail, who has an intellectual impairment, believes that the guidelines will help encourage other people with disabilities to keep themselves fit and healthy. He is currently a member of the national bowling team.

For the 30-year-old, exercise is a way of keeping him strong and healthy. He first started exercising regularly when he was 13 and now exercises around three times a week.

“When I started exercising, I realized I didn’t feel so weak anymore… I want to encourage everyone — whether they are able-bodied or people with disabilities — to join whatever activity they can do,” he said.

View the full set of Singapore Physical Activity Guidelines here.


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