Implementing a community sports programme can be challenging, but the rewards are aplenty.
WE’RE becoming a nation of heavyweights. Our priorities are to work, eat and sleep, in no particular order. Everything else is secondary. We’d rather double-park our cars and pay the summons than walk a mere 50m. Small wonder then that we’re the most “cherubic” nation in Southeast Asia.
Although there is no fitness data among Malaysians, indulging in physical activity or sports has yet to become part of our culture.
According to the World Health Organisa-tion, physical inactivity accounts for almost 3.2 million deaths per year. This figure is alarming, especially since non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, mental health problems, diabetes mellitus, chronic respiratory disease and musculoskeletal conditions) have taken over from infectious diseases as the major cause of death.
To introduce sports as part of our lifestyle and to create healthier individuals, the International Olympic Council (IOC) has come up with an informative book called Get Moving! – The IOC’s Guide to Managing Sports for All Programmes.
Published by the IOC last September, the guide is designed to be an informative platform for organisations and interested individuals to create a sports-for-all programme in the community. The IOC wants to ensure that sport activities can be pursued by all ages, whatever their social or economic circumstances may be.
In line with this, IOC’s local chapter, the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), has mooted a Move Malaysia programme to get Malaysians to move. But how?
“There are four components in the programme,” says OCM secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi. “First, exercise is medicine. We are working with the Academy of Family Physicians of Malaysia to train doctors to give ‘exercise prescription’. Right now, doctors don’t know what kind of exercises to recommend to the patient. We also have to train more fitness professionals.”
Secondly, the intention is to include a course in the undergraduate medical curriculum, so that future doctors understand the value of sports for better health.
The third component is introducing community activities, and lastly, methods to make the programme sustainable.
The proposal has received a US$250,000 (RM800,000) grant from Coca Cola International. While OCM’s primary objective is to send elite athletes to international tournaments, the secondary objective is to strengthen the second line. This programme is part of their plan to have another avenue to scout for more talents, as well as to create a stronger society and a sustainable sports movement.
A healthier, fitter society also means greatly reduced health costs. Encouraging people to be involved in physical activity at all levels is an investment, and the returns are substantial.
In the past, the Government has started many sports and fitness programmes for the community, but most of it has slid into oblivion. For example, what has happened to the National Fitness Council, which started out aggressively promoting the value of cardiovascular endurance and strength training? Their objective was to create a pool of certified fitness instructors, but it has since “died a natural death”.
Sieh refrains from commenting on the matter, but points out that our culture just doesn’t value exercise. Yet. The seeds need to be planted from young so that it can become a lifestyle.
“We have to inculcate the fitness culture as a family activity so that the nation can reap the benefits in future.”
He clarifies that OCM is not running or creating any programmes for the general public.
“We are just a funding agency. We’re not training anyone. We need your ideas and dedicated community leaders and organisations to make the programme successful. We have a task force comprising academicians, athletes, fitness trainers and doctors who will sieve the proposals.
“You don’t have to be a sportsman to lead a programme. We’re targeting young individuals and sports enthusiasts who can start such a programme, irrespective of sports. It can eventually become a business.
“Just look at the taekwondo schools. Many of them started small and have since grown into a lucrative business,” explains Sieh, who at 75, remains an active Hasher and walks all over town for meetings.
He cites the example of community aerobic and tai chi programmes conducted at public parks. These are usually well-attended by senior citizens who pay a token sum to the instructor, if they wish.
Sieh says there is a need for more such programmes to cater for different age groups. But someone has to initiate and take the lead.
All over the world, there have been successful cases of sports-for-all programme in many age groups. For example, the IOC guide tells of the Segundo Tempo programme that was created by the Brazilian Sports Ministry with the aim of promoting the practice and benefits of sports in schools.
The programme focuses on the development of life skills in children, adolescents and youths with the aim of improving their quality of life. It primarily targets groups located in socially vulnerable areas.
Since 2003, the programme has reached over six million people across Brazil.
The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee has started an elderly aquatic programme for those over 55. Too often, this age group is neglected by the community because of false beliefs and misconceptions about their age and abilities, and not enough emphasis is placed on maintaining healthy lifestyles.
The programme has seen great physical and psychological enhancement among this community.
Sieh says, “There is no one-size-fits-all. There are different needs for urban and city dwellers, so we need different programmes. For condo dwellers, they have the facilities, but for others, accessibility to a venue might be a problem.”
> The OCM will be conducting a free workshop on ‘Managing Sport for All Programmes’ based on the IOC guidebook, on Feb 27 from 9am to 4.30pm. The venue is at Level 2C, OCM Indoor Sports Complex, Wisma OCM, Kuala Lumpur. The objective of the workshop is to brainstorm, share experiences and views on how such a programme can be planned and implemented. For more details and to register, please contact Joshua Edgar, the Project Manager of Move Malaysia programme at firstname.lastname@example.org or 012-203 3020.