Athletes, outdoor workers and soldiers find ways to beat the heat, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Athletes, outdoor workers and soldiers find ways to beat the heat

Ice has been a lifesaver for Singapore Sports School (SSP) student Angelina Tay, 14, during netball training six times a week, when she reaches into a cooler box on the sidelines to beat the heat. 

Sizzling temperatures in recent weeks have left her more tired and thirstier than usual, and the ice helps prevent issues like heatstroke as she gears up for competition season. 

Having a box of ice on hand during training is just one of several measures the SSP has in place to protect its athletes on days the mercury shoots up. 

Speaking to The Straits Times, Angelina said: “It’s still manageable for now, but if the weather gets warmer, it will be harder to push ourselves as much as we can.”  

Experts predict that temperatures in April and May – often the warmest months of the year – might climb higher, given the lingering effects of the El Nino phenomenon that gripped Singapore from the second half of 2023.

Late March and some days in April have seen daily maximum temperatures hover close to 35 deg C, despite the storms on several days.

The Meteorological Service Singapore said on its portal that a heatwave in Singapore occurs when two conditions are met – first, the daily maximum temperature hits 35 deg C for three days in a row, and second, the average daily mean temperature is at least 29 deg C. 

SSP said it adopts heat-management practices similar to guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Education (MOE), including holding training sessions during cooler parts of the day, as part of efforts to cut down strenuous physical activities in the outdoors between 11am and 4pm.

In response to queries, MOE on April 1 said all students taking part in the National School Games will adopt precautions like making sure they rest frequently, and take more water breaks. 

Angelina said she now gets about twice the number of water breaks she did two weeks ago. But this also means that each training session is about 15 to 30 minutes longer. 

SSP said specific adjustments have been made for sports that require outdoor training, like football, netball, and track and field.

For instance, training sessions are moved indoors if possible, and students are reminded to take appropriate heat and ultraviolet protection measures and more frequent water breaks. Training intensity is also increased gradually to ensure students can acclimatise to the heat. 

In a statement, SSP Principal Ong Kim Soon said: “Coaches and staff monitor weather conditions closely to make informed decisions on training modifications and maintain high vigilance on those who are vulnerable to ensure the safety of student-athletes.” 

SSP football academy senior coach Shahrin Shari said lately he noticed players struggling under the “unbearable” and “unforgiving” heat, especially when the warm weather coincided with the fasting month. 

Mr Shahrin said: “We are very concerned about the players’ health and have been reminding them to hydrate off the pitch as well. If the weather gets worse, we may have to shift training sessions later into the night.”

Other than holding training after 5pm, he has also cut sessions by at least 30 minutes each. He also keeps asking players to cool down by wiping their faces and necks with wet face towels during water breaks every 10 to 15 minutes. 

Other schools are also doubling down on steps to prevent heat-related injuries linked to exercise. 

For instance, Naval Base Secondary football coach Razif Ariff said he sometimes pours water on the ground before drills – to cool the area down. 

He has also made training drills shorter but more intense, so that players are tired out by the exercise instead of the heat. 

Mr Razif said this helps players channel their thoughts away from the heat and focus better on the sport.

He said: “The best way to build up your body’s tolerance is by exposing yourself safely to short bouts of heat and humidity, and gradually increasing the length of exposure – a process known as heat acclimatisation.”

Raffles Institution athletics coach Melvin Tan said he has also taken precautions like giving students more water breaks, and easing the training load on especially warm days. 

He said one suggestion the authorities can consider is building more covered stadiums so that training can continue not just when it is warm, but also while it is raining. 

Apart from students, professional sports teams are also taking their heat-safety game to the next level. 

Since the start of 2024, the Lion City Sailors Football Club has been using a handheld sensor to track at 15-minute intervals the temperature and humidity of its training field.

That also means the club can plan for the ideal training times in the morning, and maximise the rest that the players can get at home.

A club spokesman said players experience greater heat stress and poorer performance once temperatures hits 35 deg C and relative humidity reaches 55 per cent.

In these situations, training is kept to no more than 45 minutes and iced water supplemented with electrolyte tablets is prepared for the players.

To help encourage better hydration practices during training, players are also encouraged to weigh themselves before and after training. 

This is because studies have shown that fluid loss of more than 2 per cent of the pre-training body weight is linked to a significant impairment of sport performance, the spokesman said.


Over at Hougang United FC, coach Marko Kraljevic said he gives players a water break every 10 minutes and ensures training ends at 9am, before the weather gets too hot.

But athletes are not the only ones who have borne the brunt of rising temperatures. 

Outdoor soldiers and workers since 2023 have adhered to safety measures drawn up by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

Amid rising temperatures in recent months, MOM officers will conduct workplace inspections in the construction, shipyard and process industries, to make sure the heat stress measures for outdoor work that have been put in place are proving to be effective, said a March 26 report in the Workplace Safety and Health Council newsletter.

In October 2023, MOM introduced further heat-related protocols for firms employing outdoor workers, like providing hourly breaks of at least five minutes on hotter days.

The duration of the breaks must also increase along with hourly temperatures and level of physical activity performed. 

Mr Allan Low, deputy quality, environmental, health and safety director at Teambuild Construction Group, said his firm has adopted the MOM heat stress management programme.

It has, for instance, provided workers with more shaded resting areas and on-site canteens. The firm also has daily water parades and briefings for workers about heat stress management and symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Mr Low said: “In general, temperatures are getting hotter year by year. We have provided vending machines on site for easier purchase of isotonic and cold drinks, and hope to increase the awareness of heat stress through regular training.”

He added that new workers and those that have just returned from long leave periods undergo an acclimatisation programme that helps workers adjust to working under the burning sun. 

The firm also provides its workers with long-sleeved uniforms to reduce damage from direct sunlight, and is supporting the Workplace Safety and Health Institute’s ice slurry study initiative to tackle heat stress.

Other outdoor workers, like security guards, also follow MOM’s heat-management guidelines. 

Security Association Singapore (SAS) executive director Jourdan Sabapathy said security buyers, managing agents and agencies were issued a heat-stress advisory on April 5, encouraging them to adopt practices to curb security officers’ heat stress.

This includes deferring security officers’ patrolling to cooler hours – to ensure they are directly exposed to the sun as little as possible during the day – and redeploying vulnerable workers from duties that require outdoor exposure.

The advisory added that as guard rooms often face sunlight directly, buyers and building owners should look to install air-conditioners or “at the least ensure proper ventilation” by providing fans.

SAS also meets member firms and security officers to get feedback before issuing heat advisories, Mr Sabapathy said.

Uniformed personnel from the Home Team and Singapore Armed Forces also take steps to protect themselves from heat stress, and the guidelines are updated constantly, Mindef has said. 

Soldiers undergo hydration regimes like water parades and eating ice slurries, while commanders can be flexible and modify attire and load requirements for strenuous activities.

Dr Malcolm Mahadevan, a senior consultant at the Emergency Medicine Department at the National University Hospital, said people who spend time outdoors must be aware that physical activity in high heat and humidity conditions increases one’s body heat production. 

While the body mainly keeps itself cool through evaporative sweat loss, high humidity environments can reduce sweat evaporation and its cooling ability, he added. Evaporative sweat loss takes place when body heat is lost as sweat evaporates. 

He advised people to pay attention to the type and amount of clothes they wear, and opt for loose, light clothing that wicks sweat and increases evaporative loss.

Dr Mahadevan added that one’s urine output can indicate how the body is coping with physical activity under warmer conditions. If the body is hydrated, urine volume should not be reduced and should be light in colour. 

He said: “When working or exercising, limit exposure time to the extremes of temperature in the day. Instead, choose cooler times like early morning or late evening if there is choice. For work, try and get as much shade as possible.

“Don’t wait for symptoms like feeling weak, dizziness, increased thirst, nausea and vomiting or cramps to set in, as these indicate dehydration has already set in.”