She's the leader of Yishun workout pack

SINGAPORE - It started out as a fun way to exercise in Yishun Park for Singaporean housewife Nellie Long, 40.

Little did she expect that her solo routine would soon gain a following of close to 100 women, many of whom now join her at least thrice a week.

The mother of two said that she first started doing the 11/2-hour workout, in which she incorporates dance steps she found on the Internet, in September 2010.

"Back then, I would play music from my mobile phone and complete my workout with not more than five other people," said Mrs Long.

She lives with her family in a Housing Board flat in nearby Yishun Ring Road.

Nearly two years on, Mrs Long now leads a multiracial crowd of about 60 every weekday from 7.45am.

And instead of just using a mobile phone to play music, she now also takes along a portable speaker to accommodate the large crowd. She does all this free of charge.

Her quirky routines incorporate boxing moves, cha cha steps and even Bollywood dance moves - unlike what one would find in most aerobics classes offered by gyms.

Participants move along to a mixture of Thai, Japanese, English and Chinese songs which set the pace of the routines.

Many residents who join Mrs Long at her sessions told my paper that they found out about them through word of mouth and have since become regular participants.

Some of them have even forged close friendships with neighbours whom they would never have met otherwise.

One of them is housewife Shadeedha Abdul Majeed, 40, who joined the group just a few weeks after it started.

She is now close friends with Mrs Long and a few other residents, and often has breakfast with them after the workout.

"I was very shy at first and would dance in a corner. But, after a while, I got pulled to the front by other residents, and it was then that I got to know Nellie," said Madam Shadeedha.

She goes for each session after taking her daughter to school. She said that it "helps to keep her energetic for the rest of the day".

Another resident who has benefited from the workout is retiree Mary Cheong, 72, who said that participating in the sessions has helped to alleviate her high cholesterol level.

Mrs Long knows that her sessions have helped not only her, but also others to keep fit, and this keeps her going.

"I feel happiest when residents who participate in my class tell me that they had fun, and that they have become healthier," she said.

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