ST Jan 7, 2008
Modify 2.4km IPPT run to ease strain on heart
I REFER to the report, 'SAF officer dies after 1.2km run' (ST, Jan 3).
There has been a spate of deaths recently with the victims collapsing while running. Most national servicemen have to complete a 2.4km run in order to fulfil their annual Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT), so I think it is high time the Ministry of Defence looked into revamping this segment of IPPT.
On average, in order to obtain a Gold standard in the IPPT, a national serviceman has to obtain a minimum of four points (out of a maximum of five points) for each of the four stationary fitness stations and then run 2.4km in about 10 minutes, plus or minus half a minute.
Anyone who has ever achieved a sub-10 for a 2.4km run can attest to the power of endurance needed, and the pain and fatigue undergone. Of course, the excitement and sense of achievement are what push one through.
However, it is unrealistic to expect the majority of national servicemen to reach that level of fitness. Many have unintentionally injured themselves trying to break the 10-minute barrier by overtaxing their bodies.
Hence, it is not advisable to set such a short time limit for a 2.4km run.
Fitness experts recommend that we engage in a cardiovascular exercise continuously for at least 20 minutes in order to maximise its benefits. Running a sub-10 does not seem to serve that purpose.
My suggestion is to extend the distance of the run to 4km or 5km, with a time limit of 30 to 40 minutes, thereby focusing more on the endurance and general fitness than speed. This should put less strain on the heart and body, while giving the runners some time to warm up and ready their bodies for the run in a less gruelling manner.
We cannot delude ourselves that these 'running deaths', which have led to the demise of healthy men in their 20s to 50s, are coincidences. Neither can we attribute the concerns expressed over these occurrences to 'sensationalised news' by the press.
Instead of a sudden burst of energy to complete a run in a short time, a longer run may be all it takes to prevent a cardiac arrest.
Rick Lim Say Kiong
Rick Lim was referring to the recent death of Major Tan Yit Guan. It was probably the TODAY newspaper which reported this incident most thoroughly.
TODAY tells us that Major Tan did not even manage to jog the full distance of 1.2 km. He ran only about 600 metres and then walked the rest of the distance back to the finish. This suggests that Major Tan was already unwell that day.
Rick Lim says that it is unrealistic to expect the majority of servicemen to achieve the Gold standard time. However, I don't think that the majority of servicemen are expected, or expect themselves, to achieve the Gold standard time (barring servicemen in certain elite vocations like the Commandos or the Guards).
Rick also says that the standard recommendation for cardiovascular exercise is to do it continuously for at least 20 minutes in order to maximise its benefits. Of course it is always possible to relook the way the IPPT is done. However, at the same time, I would say that the IPPT in the SAF isn't done for the sake of your cardiovascular fitness or personal health goals. It's done for the purpose of ensuring a certain level of fitness in the soldiers, for military purposes.
Also, it's not clear to me that extending the IPPT distance and increasing the time limit would help reduce incidences of sudden cardiac arrest. The real point is how hard you are pushed to exert. Is it really any safer for your heart, to complete 4 or 5 km as fast as you can, than to complete 2.4 km as fast as you can? For that matter, are people less likely to die from a 100-metre sprint, than they are from a 42-km marathon?