HK should invest more in community recreations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 October, 2012, 2:09am


The head of Hong Kong's lifeguard union has called on the government to introduce compulsory swimming instruction for schoolchildren, because lessons at government pools are oversubscribed and poor families are missing out on private tuition. Alex Kwok Siu-kit says government and community attitudes to sport and swimming in particular need to change. His plea raises a wider issue of sports facilities and community health.

It is futile to expect the government to outlay billions on grand stadiums and sporting complexes. In any case, they do not necessarily target the community's needs. For example, the public makes heavy use of community sports facilities run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, rising towards capacity during peak hours. This suggests that if the facilities are there, people will use them. Indeed, a survey of more than 5,000 people not all that long ago by the community sports committee of the Sports Commission revealed that along with jogging, swimming and badminton were the most popular activities, and respondents wanted the government to build more pools, courts and sports centres.

How much exercise should we aim for as a minimum? The committee says at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity at least three days a week. The same survey revealed that more than half the respondents failed to meet this requirement. Heavy patronage of LCSD facilities suggests investment in considerably more would be a good public investment in community health.

In this respect variety is the spice of life. On their own, single pursuits like jogging, trail hiking, swimming, or whatever, can test motivation. That is another reason, apart from the over-riding importance of water safety, Kwok's plea for more resources for swimming lessons is worth considering. They should include more indoor pools. Once learned, and with year-round access, swimming is a lifetime exercise and good therapy for old joints.