Oct 24, 2013

    Possible tweaks 'make IPPT better'

    GOING by responses from experts, the possible changes being considered by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) may result in a better gauge of fitness.

    The Straits Times reported yesterday that, among the changes being considered, one was to make soldiers run a longer distance of 3.2km, instead of the current 2.4km, in their annual fitness test.

    The Singapore Army said on Facebook yesterday that the SAF constantly reviews its training system and "there has not been any decision to change" the IPPT system.

    Even so, many of the experts who looked at the possible changes flagged in the report gave them the thumbs up.

    They said these could, among other things, minimise the risk of injury and over-exertion.

    If the running distance was increased, for example, experts believed that soldiers would be given more time to complete the segment at a more moderate pace.

    The report mentioned that SAF was also considering scrapping the standing-broad-jump requirement and adding a new push-up criterion.

    There are five categories in the current IPPT - sit-ups, standing broad jump, chin-up, a 4x10m shuttle run and a 2.4km run.

    Exercise physiologist Ray Loh from Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Sports Medicine and Surgery Clinic said a 3.2km run is a better test of aerobic fitness.

    While well-trained runners can complete 2.4km within nine minutes, a 3.2km run would require more than 10 minutes, he noted.

    Mr Loh explained that it is at the 10-minute mark that "aerobic-energy contribution increases, while anaerobic-energy contribution reduces significantly".

    He believed a 3.2km run could provide a more complete assessment of overall fitness, as the shuttle-run category already tests a soldier's anaerobic capacity.

    Dr Kelvin Chew, a senior consultant at the Changi Sports Medicine Centre, said a 3.2km run may make a huge difference to a serviceman who has trouble passing the current 2.4km.

    "The passing and merit criteria need to be carefully examined," he said.

    Mr Jonathan Fong, co-founder of Journey Fitness Company which helps train runners and triathletes, said: "It's a fairer gauge of base fitness - being able to run for a continuous amount of time, at a lower intensity."

    Mr Fong added: "(The risk of) injury also (goes) up exponentially when you increase intensity, and if you are unprepared."

    But Mr Nelson Chong, founder of the health-and-fitness specialist, the Functional Training Institute, said there is not much difference between a 2.4km and a 3.2km run.

    About 116,000 people take the IPPT every year, and those who fail have to attend a remedial-training programme.

    Business owner Yan Yew Kay, 34, who has not passed his IPPT in the past few years, said a 3.2km distance, coupled with an increased time allowed per lap, would be a "better test of endurance".

    Business undergraduate Clement Tan, 21, felt that SAF should not do away with the standing broad jump. "It's important, as soldiers need to jump over ditches and obstacles(on the battlefield)," he said.