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Encouraging results for National Steps Challenge

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More participants of latest National Step Challenge hit average of 5km a day

Singaporeans are taking a step in the right direction - if the results of the latest National Steps Challenge are anything to go by.

During the latest season, which ran from last October to April this year, 30,000 of the 696,000 participants managed to clock an average of 5km a day over six months - almost 1,000km in total.

This was up from 26,000 participants achieving the feat in the 2016/17 event. The results were revealed last month by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), which has organised the event since 2015.

Participants track their steps with pedometers to accumulate points that can be exchanged for shopping vouchers.

The marked improvement comes as latest obesity figures from the Health Ministry show that children are getting fatter. Last year, 13 per cent of children in mainstream schools were overweight compared with 11 per cent in 2011.

Adults fared better, with 36 per cent of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 found to be overweight last year, down from 40 per cent in 2010.

But walking is not enough, experts warn.

A review of evidence from Public Health England, which provides expertise from public health specialists, found it must be complemented by muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities.

In middle and older age, these activities help to maintain and improve body function, as well as reduce death from cardiovascular disease and from any other causes.

The review recommended doing high intensity resistance training, some impact exercise - such as running, jumping or skipping - and balance training at least twice a week.

Experts agree that people should engage in various forms of exercise.

For example, impact and balance training can be built into exercise routines, according to Dr Eugene Chew, head of programme for Sports and Physical Education at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

National Steps Challenge participant Mr Tan How Lit, 70, said exercise helped him get back on his feet.

Ten years ago, he underwent an operation to relieve pressure on compressed spinal nerves, which left him with shrunken leg muscles and walking difficulty.

But after taking part in the Steps Challenge in 2015, he managed to clock an average of 10,000 steps, and has continued to participate in the following two seasons.

"Walking has now become a habit for me," said the retiree.

Mr Tan, who is also diabetic, now skips the bus in favour of walking to markets near his home.

"I no longer get tired after a short distance," he said.