BY Chew Sue Lee
Regular gym goers would not often find themselves pumping iron next to a septuagenarian. What more, a 70-year old doing a variety of heart-thumping but joint-friendly exercise routines for over 1.5 hours. Well, pop by Petaling Jaya Evangelical Free Church (PJEFC) Sit-down Exercise (SDE) programme and you’ll find some 100 seniors doing just that.
The unofficial gym for seniors, (minus the exorbitant gym membership fee as it’s free), PJEFC’s SDE programme is held at the church’s spacious concourse on Tuesday and Friday mornings.
With just a two-foot PVC pipe and a plastic chair, the participants are ready to do their exercise, mostly performed seated to make it less strenuous and intimidating for seniors suffering the daily aches and pains.
SDE was started in April 2015 as an outreach programme by PJEFC’s JOY (Just Older Youths) Ministry for the seniors. Earlier on, one of the Joy committee members had chanced upon SDE while conducting a course at Canning Gardens Methodist Church, Ipoh. It was a God-timed coincidence as PJEFC was looking for a means to reach out to the unchurched community.
Led by Lee Lai Sheong, an energetic and youthful senior who is also one of the SDE instructors, JOY’s vision is to raise people who will stay fresh and green, even in old age, and continue bearing fruit for the Lord (Psalm 92:14-15). “We saw this programme as a viable outreach activity to benefit seniors in our community. Exercise is one way of keeping seniors ‘fresh and green,’ that is, fit,” she says.
Developed by Mr Yeoh Kit Koon, a retired Physical Education teacher and trainer from Ipoh, SDE aims to strengthen the entire body and focuses on most of the muscles, from the neck all the way to the toes.
The exercise provides three Ss to its participants: suppleness, strength and stamina. Suppleness alludes to the flexibility of joints (increased suppleness can help prevent injuries). By improving muscular strength and endurance, SDE can help participants perform daily activities without getting tired easily. And lastly, stamina is improved through the repetition of each routine.
NOT QUITE A WALK IN THE PARK
While the average age of participants is between 60 and 70, the programme does see some middle-aged participants and young students joining in the workout. Lest you are tempted to pooh-pooh the exercise as “easy” and only for frail seniors, the instructors share that newcomers are usually surprised that they break a sweat. First-timers can definitely expect a full body workout and perhaps even some body aches for the next day or two.
In fact, a middle-aged person who is unaccustomed to exercising would probably find the exercise “breath-taking” as it requires energy and stamina to complete the full 1.5-hour exercise. Much like our spiritual walk, to attain the full benefits from this exercise and become physically strong, one requires discipline, consistency and diligence over the long term, according to the instructors.
Judging from the high attendance at each session, it is safe to assume that all the participants enjoy the exercise and find it beneficial. For retirees, the programme provides a great avenue to get out of the house and keep active.
Arnold Lee is one such retiree. Prior to his retirement two and a half years ago, Arnold only did some light walking around the neighbourhood on the rare occasion, acknowledging that it was hardly sufficient to keep him healthy.
Having had two hernia operations previously, Arnold found that since he started attending the SDE regularly two years ago, his lower body had strengthened significantly.
“The proof is when I fly on Air Asia. There are a lot of stairs to climb and I am now able to walk steadily up the stairs while carrying my hand luggage, unlike before.” He testifies that since starting SDE and changing his eating habits, he no longer suffers from high blood pressure.
Testimonies such as Arnold’s are common. Chief instructor Yoke Heng shares that participants often testify of greater mobility, flexibility and strength after attending the programme regularly. Some have seen a reduction or complete healing of chronic bodily pains in their back, knee and neck. Positive reports such as these give the instructors the joy and incentive to go on.
Given the success of the programme, it is not surprising that PJEFC has received requests to help start the SDE programme at other churches. To date, the PJEFC team has helped seven other churches within the Klang Valley to get the programme going. Not wanting to be left behind, some overseas attendees from Canada and Australia have plans to start it in their home church too.
In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul writes “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
Even as the JOY Ministry of PJEFC seeks to strengthen the physical health of those attending the SDE programme, ultimately, their prayer is that through meaningful connections and God-given opportunities at the weekly sessions, the unchurched seniors will come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ in their ‘golden age’.
(The SDE Programme is also available at the following churches: Trinity Methodist Church, People’s Park Baptist Church, SS Gospel Centre, Emmanuel Methodist Church, Faith Covenant Tabernacle, Damansara Utama Methodist Church and Grace Assembly Church.)
Petaling Jaya Evangelical Free Church
Tues. and Fri.
10.30am – 12pm
Trinity Methodist Church
Mon. and Wed.
10.00am – 11.30am
People’s Park Baptist Church
9.30am – 11am
SS Gospel Centre
9.30am – 11am
Emmanuel Methodist Church
6.30pm – 8pm
Faith Covenant Tabernacle
2.30pm – 4pm
Mon. and Wed.
9am – 10am
Grace Assembly Church
Tues. and Fri.
Asian Beacon: Apr – Jun 2018 (Vol 50 #2, p16-17)