New initiative to draw more to sports centres

In one corner of the swimming complex, cycling enthusiasts pedal away on aqua-bikes. Nearby, others attempt to navigate an inflatable obstacle course.

These are the sort of scenes that could be coming to Singapore's sports and recreation centres (SRCs) soon, with Sport Singapore's ActiveSG movement set to be launched tomorrow at Jurong West Sports Centre.

Under this initiative, existing sports facilities will be retrofitted with outdoor gyms, barbecue pits and mobile phone charging stations, to encourage participation and social bonding.

Singaporeans and permanent residents who sign up for its free membership system will get priority in booking the sports facilities and members-only events.

They will also have access to several fitness programmes, from Zumba fitness and muay thai, to new and less conventional ones like Piloxing (a cross of Pilates, boxing and dance) and masala bhangra (an Indian dance-based workout).

These activities come under the umbrella of ActiveSG, one of the key elements of the Republic's Vision 2030 sports master plan launched in 2011.

It aims to provide all Singaporeans - from youth to the elderly and those with special needs - with opportunities to get involved in sports.

"Our vision is to create opportunities and access for everyone to live better through sports," ActiveSG chief Lai Chin Kwang said at a media briefing yesterday.

"We're looking at new programmes because we know that people will be drawn in to give the experience a try. We have a string of exciting activities for them, and we hope every Singaporean gives us the chance to give them a 'wow' experience."

With that in mind, four Open Houses and four sports festivals have been lined up at SRCs islandwide between now and June to give residents an idea of what ActiveSG will offer.

Mr Lai added that the range of activities available at the various sports centres is geared towards the forming of social networks, which are the key to encouraging repeated participation.

"We're using the next year or so to generate interest," Mr Lai said. "We want people to just have fun, until they realise that coming every weekend is a must."

But much has to be done to achieve Sport Singapore's target of attracting between 15 million and 16 million visitors to its facilities next year, up from 13 million visitors last year.

"It will take time for this to gain traction," Mr Lai said. "It will take a change in both lifestyle and mindset - Singaporeans must believe that an active lifestyle is good for healthy living and family bonding."

This article was published on April 25 in The Straits Times.

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