The first ever Active Citizens Worldwide (ACW) report was discussed at the World Cities Summit, during which Singapore, as one of the initiative’s founding cities, also unveiled the Singapore City Report 2018. The panel discussion was facilitated by Dr Gillian Koh, Deputy Director (Research), from the Institute of Policy Studies.
The ACW project was kickstarted by Portas Consulting to support cities around the world in getting their citizens to become more active, by providing policymakers with greater insights and through data and analytics, multi-city collaboration, best-practice sharing, and global benchmarking.
The report revealed that just 42.9% of Singapore residents – citizens and Permanent Residents (PR) – achieve 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity in a week. The percentage rises to 50.9% when active modes of travel were included.
Image: Sport Singapore
Comparatively, measurements carried out during the National Sports Participation Survey suggested that residents have become increasingly active, with 36% of people exercising at least twice a week, though Sport Singapore CEO Lim Teck Yin noted that this was not the best measure.
“Our National Sport Participation Survey measures frequency, but frequency doesn’t necessarily measure quality. One area we are all trying to land on right now, is what is a good measure of physical activity,” he said.
At the moment, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) minimum recommended level of physical activity stands at 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise.
Using that measure, the ACW report found significant trends across factors such as educational attainment and geographical region. Activity levels seemed to increase according to levels of education, while residents who lived in the east were generally 48% more active as compared to the other regions.
Age was also a significant factor. It was determined that youths aged 13 to 15 were the most active (72%), though these numbers would decrease significantly for those aged 16 to 24 (52%) and continue declining before a slight increase in the 65 and above age group (43%).
Known as the “bathtub effect”, he noted that transitions across life stages such as entering the workforce had a big effect on physical activity levels here, with the lack of time due to school and work coming up as top reasons for inactivity across those aged 13 to 60.
Due to the lack of time and demand for flexibility, individual sports such as walking, jogging, and going to the gym were the most popular activities in Singapore. Football was the most popular team sport, coming in fourth on the list, followed by bicycle touring, swimming, badminton, and basketball.
Public facilities were also the most often used facility type by Singaporean residents (74%), as compared to residential, private, and school or work facilities, which was a big nod to ActiveSG’s programmes and Sports Facilities Master Plan’s efforts to make sports more easily accessible.
“The big power of sport is that it engages our spirit of play. Exercising for people who are not physically active is not fun, but we can create [opportunities] with games which are unlike traditional sport,” shared Lim, citing Flippa Ball, a simplified version of water polo, as an example. It has attracted the interest of many older women in their 60s to 70s.
He continued: “It’s just engaging them in play – you can do this on land, in our facilities, or in the park. I think that’s something that we want to do and [find out] whether some of these attitudes – why people don’t engage or play – will see some shifts.”
Proving the benefits of sport, the ACW report also posited that sport contributed close to 119 hours of positive social contact per active Singapore resident in a year, which includes increased contact with people from a different race or age group, or those with a disability.
Image: Sport Singapore
With such findings validating SportSG’s motto of “Live Better Through Sport”, Lim expressed: “The final follow-up here is really asking ourselves whether we can investigate further and embrace the next phase of Vision 2030. We have more levers now than we had five years ago, and [we need] to use that to good effect in partnering Singaporeans to create the ecosystems we want to create.”
For the full Active Citizens Worldwide report, please head to http://activecitizens.world/