As someone who has been intimately involved with the fitness industry for over 20 years here in Singapore, I'm privileged to have observed and experienced first-hand for myself how our local fitness culture has evolved and developed through the years.
While it's undeniable that there are indeed many positive aspects to our fitness culture today, including the growing awareness of the importance of fitness in many people's lives, the increase in participation figures in various fitness events and sporting activities, and the surge in numbers of credentialed and certified trainers and coaches among our midst - I do feel that there are still quite a number of unresolved issues and concerns within the Singapore fitness culture.
In the following paragraphs, I will seek to explore and expound some of them that I have encountered over the years.
Overemphasis On Physical Appearance
In our fitness culture today, the very concept of health, well-being and physical functionality seems to me to be very much overshadowed by most people's main objective of exercising: simply to "look good in the mirror" or to attain an enviable physique/ideal figure that fits societal expectations.
This overemphasis on outward appearance and superficial aesthetics could be seen manifested everywhere we look nowadays: from the countless number of shirtless selfies, before/after photos and "transformation" videos that people take of themselves to the multitudes of influencers and celebrities touting programs, services and products that 'promise' radical physical remodeling or even total body metamorphosis to their followers!
Sadly, as I see it, all these have pushed the REAL benefits of exercise and physical activities far into the background of most people's minds.
Unrealistic Body And Fitness Standards
Building-on the above, I also believe that somewhere along the line, our fitness culture has somehow fostered an unrealistic and impractical pursuit of bodily standards and performance markers among many in the exercise community, especially so among the younger population groups.
Personally, over the years, I've heard quite a number of fitness enthusiasts voicing hopes and expectations that practically border on fantasy and delusion - at least in my own opinion.
Some examples include:
wanting to attain and maintain 10% or less body fat levels YEAR ROUND (without actually knowing what it entails or how dangerous it can be),
aiming to achieve a certain celebrity-inspired, "Hollywood-like" physique (despite science repeatedly telling us that everyone is DIFFERENT (different physiology, different metabolism, different muscle fiber composition etc.), or
striving for overly-lofty goals in one's lifts/running times/training volumes/intensities etc. (at the expense of one's long-term health and well-being).
In my mind, all these point to a disturbing trend: a culture that is increasingly becoming fixated and obsessed with outward appearance and physical performance.
More importantly, all these detract from what I believe exercise, movement and physical activity should be all about in the first place:
reducing one's risk of chronic diseases,
improving our mood and mental health,
enhancing our overall quality of life, longevity and well-being.
Shallow And Narrow Fitness Focus
In addition to the above, I also perceive a LACK of breadth and depth in many of the common workout routines and fitness programs followed by the masses today.
Many people are simply scratching the surface when it comes to their exercise regimes, and more often than not, are missing-out BIG time on the manifold benefits of exercise due to the lack of balance, depth and comprehensiveness in their exercise programs!
Crucial fitness principles, fundamentals and training elements that should form the basis of ANY properly-structured, scientific and/or holistic fitness program are often sorely lacking, severely-compromised or even totally missing in many people's fitness regimes.
Also, a large majority of exercisers here in Singapore have very little - or even no - concept of:
what the different types or planes of movement there are (e.g. sagittal, frontal or transverse),
how to harness and toggle between the different energy systems used in exercising (e.g. aerobic training vs. anaerobic training),
or what the fundamental movement patterns that should be included in a balanced workout session (e.g. push, pull, squat, hinge, rotation, carry etc.)
As a result of this ignorance and apathy, even common exercise fundamentals such as Resistance Training are more often than not misunderstood and misused, crucial principles such as Balance Training are oftentimes neglected and underutilized, and important concepts such as Multiplanar Training mean next-to-nothing to most average exercisers.
Obsession With What's Trendy Or Popular
The rapid rise and spread of influencer-fueled Facebook ads, Instagram posts, YouTube/TikTok videos have also permeated deep into the fitness culture here in Singapore as in so many other countries, and have brought along a dark edge with them too ...
In my observations, people nowadays - instead of sticking to what's credible, scientific and proven are more often than not distracted and enticed by the latest maze of trendy workout routines and glamorized fitness fads popularized by social-media influencers, Hollywood stars and famous celebrities.
As a result, a great majority of our fitness-loving population end-up hopping blindly from one fitness craze to another, with little or no concern for science and/or logic, nor paying much heed to the presence - or in most cases, absence - of any worthwhile fitness philosophy and/or training methodology behind each individual fitness approach.
Consequently, it is not surprising therefore that so many exercise routines that we see nowadays are either unsustainable in the long-term or simply lopsided or imbalanced in nature.
Proliferation Of Misinformation And Disinformation
With the explosion of social media sites/platforms across the Internet in recent years, I've also noticed more and more misinformation and disinformation on fitness, exercise and nutrition being fed to our unsuspecting public ...
Like myself, many fitness professionals and health authorities around the world today are extremely concerned about this flood of false information swamping our media; from extreme exercise regimes to pseudo-scientific training methods to flawed/dangerous dietary fads and to all the innumerable fitness scams, marketing gimmicks and false promises that have become so prevalent in our fitness world today.
Instead of seeking help from qualified personal trainers and/or licensed fitness coaches, many have been sucked into this whirlpool of lies and falsehoods propagated by these bodies of misinformation/disinformation, and inadvertently subjecting themselves to potential dangers, life-threatening injuries and other serious health repercussions as a result.
Therefore, it is no surprise that more and more people in our society nowadays are often left confused, frustrated and disillusioned over their fitness pursuits and progress (or rather, lack of).
Though many aspects of our fitness culture are indeed problematic and controversial, the good news is that there are still many committed individuals and communities within our fitness sphere who are actively working to address these issues.
At the same time, all of us should also take it upon ourselves to do our own part, such as: seeking out trusted and reliable sources of information - including but not limited to - reputable fitness professionals, evidence-based research data, credible scientific studies etc. - when deciding on matters pertaining to our own health, fitness and wellness.
Only then can we collectively move toward a more wholesome, balanced and positive fitness culture here in Singapore.