Insurance head honcho on breaking his unhealthy life habits

Mr Tan Hak Leh, chief executive officer of AIA Singapore, runs along the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade on 23 May 2014.
PHOTO: Insurance head honcho on breaking his unhealthy life habits

SINGAPORE - As the chief executive officer of AIA Singapore, Mr Tan Hak Leh is responsible for overseeing operations in the market and focusing on getting Singaporeans adequately insured. He is also leading the charge to find innovative ways to get more people to lead healthier lives.

"You not only spend less on health care when you're healthy, you also recover faster," the 48-year-old said.

The company conducted the AIA Vitality Age Survey in 2012 and found that Singaporeans are four years "older" in health terms than their actual age. Poor lifestyle choices were to blame.

Another AIA survey done last year revealed that Singaporeans are not taking care of their health, specifically by not sleeping and exercising enough. These insights helped the company create the digitally based AIA Vitality wellness programme. It provides members with the knowledge, tools and motivation to help them achieve sustainable behavioural change and attain their health goals and it rewards them as they get healthier. "We are the first insurer here to pay members as they get healthier - up to $108 a year," said Mr Tan.

This includes refunds on the programme's membership fees as well as premium rebates.

Through this, people are encouraged to lead healthy lifestyles and have easy access to being adequately insured, he added.

He and his wife have an 18-year-old son. He stands 1.68m tall and weighs 56.7kg.

What do you do to keep fit?

I work out five days a week for 30 minutes each time, either running or walking.

I use a smartphone app to keep track of my workouts and the amount of calories I lose. This keeps me motivated to continue pushing myself.

I trained for a half marathon and a full marathon, which I ran in March and May respectively. I also took part in the AIA 6km Run at the Jurong Lake Run last month with members of my senior management team, employees and customers.

What is your secret to looking so fabulous?

It's really about thinking positively and this translates into having greater self-confidence.

As the saying goes: "Good health is wealth." I now make a conscious effort to keep fit and eat healthily.

I was motivated to make the change in my life when we launched the AIA Vitality programme, a wellness programme which is also accessible as a phone app. It not only provides you with the tools to get healthy, but also gives incentives and rewards for doing so.

Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

Yes. There was a 20-year period when I did not get any regular exercise.

However, after the launch of the wellness programme last July, I did my health assessments and one of the recommendations was to exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.

When I first embarked on my journey towards becoming healthy, I started out with 30-minute walks, followed by 30-minute runs and, sometimes, swims.

As my strength and stamina improved, I gradually extended the duration of my exercise sessions. I ran 10km a day to prepare for the full marathon, but have now gone back to running about 5km a day.

What is your diet like?

I am disciplined about keeping a healthy diet. I make sure all my meals include fruit and vegetables, according to the Health Promotion Board's guideline of eating at least two servings of fruits and two servings of vegetables every day.

I keep my meals balanced with protein and carbohydrates so that I have sufficient energy for my daily exercises.

What are your indulgences?

I don't deprive myself and enjoy the occasional drink when I'm out with friends, but I'm always mindful about doing everything in moderation.

I also rely on my app to keep track of my calorie intake so that I do not overindulge.

What is your work like and does it make it difficult for you to keep fit?

My days are often very packed but I have resolved to commit at least half an hour a day for exercise, which is now part of my schedule.

So far, I have been successful in achieving my five-days-a-week exercise routine.

My new-found healthy lifestyle has not only helped me better manage the pressure of work, it has also given me more time to bond with my family. They have joined me on this wellness journey.

My motto is: Break unhealthy lifestyle habits, and be the real change in my life.

What do you do to relax?

I believe in keeping healthy physically, financially and mentally. I enjoy short getaways and catching up with friends over dinner, grocery shopping and watching movies with my family, as well as having regular exercise.

What are the three most important things in your life?

My family, my friends and my second family - the team at AIA Singapore. This is why I always encourage them to be healthy, so they can continue to be well and enjoy life.

We have implemented numerous internal health and wellness programmes for AIA staff to participate in during lunch or after work. They include zumba classes, evening runs and wellness talks.

The company also supports initiatives such as the Jurong Lake Run and Cold Storage Kids Run to encourage more families to get healthy together.

Along our office corridors, I now hear colleagues exchanging notes on how to keep fit. It's heartening to hear that more staff are creating activity groups, from yoga to kick-boxing classes, outside of work to get healthy together.

Such efforts foster close working relationships, stronger teamwork and better communication across departments - so we're not only happier and healthier, but also more productive at work.

Would you go for plastic surgery and why?

No. I prefer to pay attention to my health and well-being.

Do you think you're sexy?

I'll just say I'm comfortable in my own skin.

This article was first published on July 3, 2014.
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