Power of Play

Power of Play

Go anywhere – from the obvious places like playgrounds to the common places like void decks, you’d see young kids coming together for some form of games. Apart from getting a good sweat session, these games are also important for children to learn how settle disputes, solve problems and form relationships.


Types of Play

Let’s talk about the three kinds of play – structured, semi-structured and unstructured. The best way to explain structured play is through an example and sports is an example of structured play. Rules confining how to play, what to play with and whom to play with are pre-defined. Children get no say in it.

Unstructured play is the complete opposite, in which children get to decide all elements of the game. You see this best when children come together in informal groups, decide the number of people who’s catching and the physical boundaries whereby everyone has to stick within. Children get absolute say in the play.

Semi-structured plays in the middle of this spectrum. It typically has a specific, pre-defined learning objective but children are allowed to explore and learn in independent ways. This is most common in our physical education (PE) classes. The PE teacher demonstrates how to throw-and-catch properly, and students break into smaller groups to practise.

break time recess play

Current Situation with Unstructured Play

At the top level, children have less free time in a week than they had before. We know that now apart from the usual musical, sporting and theatre enrichment classes, there’s coding – the new buzz in town.

Children have 12 percent less free time per week compared to 20 years ago. The way in which children spend their free time has also changed. Participation in outdoor activities decreased 50 percent and unstructured, free play decreased 25 percent.

Most interestingly, Lego Learning Institute has found that although most parents recognised play as a valid form of learning, they preferred only certain forms of play. More parents preferred their child playing in structured environments than unstructured ones (Source).

Advantages of Unstructured Play

The nature of unstructured play encourages creativity, sparks intrinsic motivation and a love for physical activity, and stimulates social emotional learning. Without external intervention and confines on the type and nature of play, children are challenged to throw out ideas, negotiate and compromise, work in teams and manage failures and successes. In addition, unstructured play in a school context promotes classroom learning as well because it serves as a mental break from doing classwork or performing sports-specific practice.

That’s why an important component we add in SMFB Neighbourhoods and SMFB Accelerate is the Breakout session – in which we empower participants to design their own workout, game or activity for the rest of the group.

It returns the choice to them and allows transformational learning to come out of it.

Realistic Rules for Healthy, Happy Lives

Realistic Rules for Healthy, Happy Lives
Who has managed to stick to a diet for a lifetime? I haven’t. We might argue for ourselves that the diet is only temporary and you can return to your ‘normal diet’ once you’ve obtained your ideal weight. But our previous article debunking the myths of ‘fad diets’ and what caloric restriction can do to your body have demonstrated that most of us tend to regain the weight we have previously lost.
Instead of thinking of quick fixes with strict rules that leave you feeling miserable about yourself and in social settings, let’s set some realistic ones that can also allow us to achieve our health goals.
hearty breakfast

Eat breakfast within one hour of waking up

This kickstarts our metabolism. Especially when sleep is essentially 7-8 hours of starvation, it is important that we quickly replenish our muscles and our bodies with the necessary fuel. If you go for morning workouts, and do not want to or cannot stomach a full meal, you can opt for a carbohydrate-full snack instead. Remember that our muscles and brain require glycogen – which is also carbohydrates, for fuel. Without it, our performance, reaction time and strength reduces.

brain fuel

Fuel frequently

Frequently would mean every 3 to 4 hours. This ensures that our muscles have a consistent supply of energy to use. Recall that when our muscles run out of carbohydrates, they take part in gluconeogenesis, which eats away at our lean muscle and use up protein. It also sends a message to our brain that there is going to be a steady, reliable supply of fuel and that prevents unwanted fat storage. Another important point is that carbohydrates are the only energy source for our brains.
lean muscle

Have your meal after a workout

Carbohydrates are important to restore intra-muscular glycogen stores, which gets used up when you exercise and work your muscles. Protein is important for muscle repair and building of lean muscle mass. All these contribute to proper recover, which is then crucial in preventing injury and fatigue. For those having morning workout sessions, remember to have a proper breakfast within 30 to 60 minutes after.


Aim for 4 to 6 cups of water

The Harvard Medical School Special Health Report notes that water has many important jobs, such as:
  • Carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells (your cells are made up of 70% water!)
  • Aiding in digestion
  • Stabilising blood pressure and heart rate
  • Protecting organs and tissues (like your joints!)
 health eating

Aim for a colourful plate

Include green, leafy vegetables; red or white meat such as lean beef, pork, fish or chicken; yellow or essentially complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat bread, brown rice or oatmeal.


Caloric Restrictions & Rapid Weight Loss – What It Does To Our Bodies

Caloric Restrictions & Rapid Weight Loss – What It Does To Our Bodies
Magazines tell us how we can look better, stronger and younger. There’s always something more to work towards (or work backwards, with regards to looking younger) and this can induce the false perception who we are now is not good enough. This becomes dangerous when we start to buy into ‘fad’ diets and develop unhealthy habits. Let’s understand how rapid weight loss is a flawed thinking in itself and not sustainable.


Weight loss vs Fat loss

When we severely reduce our caloric intake, our weight would definitely drop. The question is – what exactly are we losing? For each gram of glycogen stored, three grams of water is retained. As we cut carbohydrates, we lose water weight. This loss of water weight contributes to our ‘weight loss’ and it quickly regained when we go back to our usual eating habits.
weighing scaleFurthermore, carbohydrates is the main source of energy for our brain function and muscle movements. Without carbohydrate stores (or glycogen stores), our muscles start to look towards protein and fat as a source of energy. This process is known as gluconeogenesis – the making of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources, which also results in catabolism of our muscles – breakdown of our muscles. And here’s the difference between weight loss and fat loss. When we see the numbers on the scale dropping, some of this drop is due to the breakdown and loss of muscles – not fats. 

Fasting and Metabolism

I’m sure it’s not new to you – our bodies adapt. When you feed your body regularly with fuel and water, your body learns that it is safe, not deprived and it can function normally. However, when you start to starve yourself, your body recognises that minimal and inconsistent fuel is being provided. It activates your body’s survival instincts, which may cause the body to slow its resting metabolism in order to store enough fuel. This reduction in metabolic rate would also mean that the next time your caloric intake is slightly increased, your body would store all these calories more greedily in order to ensure its survival.
That’s why the much celebrated methods of fasting and caloric restrictions are ineffective. It also affects mood, performance and basically, our daily lives!

Debunking ‘Fad’ Diets

Debunking ‘Fad’ Diets

What is a ‘fad’ diet?

First, let’s define a ‘fad’ diet. They are diets that typically require eliminating one or more essential food groups and claim to deliver faster results than your regular diets. Results usually come fast and furious, but can be potentially unsustainable and unhealthy.

Avoid the ‘fad’ diet – here’s why

The primary reason is that eliminating essential food groups results in you losing our on important nutrients and minerals. Let’s look at two essential food groups typically eliminated in ‘fad’ diets and find out why you have to be cautious about the claimed successes of ‘fad’ diets.

Foods high in carbohydrate


A key source of carbohydrates, grains are commonly eliminated in ‘fad’ diets. Yet, grains – specifically whole grains, contain fiber, provide energy and are important sources of Vitamin B, Iron, Magnesium and Selenium. Fiber and the fact that whole grains are complex carbohydrates mean that they take longer to digest, and give you a sense of fullness for a longer time.

Grains are always spoken of as the ‘bad guys’ and the cause of humans becoming fat and unhealthy is because we often confuse whole grains with refined grains. Refined grains are found in white rice, pasta or a cake. They are extremely calorie-dense, but does not contain as much nutrients as whole grains.


Study the graph for a bit. You’d see that as grains become more refined (nearing the left axis of the graph), they have lower content of vitamins and minerals.



That’s another victim of ‘fad’ diets! Diary products such as milk are said to be fatty and cause gut inflammation. However, what is less understood is that the fat portion of the milk, for example, contains fat soluble vitamins – Vitamins D, E, A and K. Diary products are also a rich source of proteins, carbohydrates, water soluble vitamins, and minerals.
The current dietary recommendation for calcium intake in Singapore is 800 mg/day, based on the assumption that Asians require less calcium than Caucasians.

Bearing that into considering, notice how with 1 cup of skim milk you can already meet 50% of your recommended calcium intake!

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 2.44.31 PM
Source: WebMD

Why Calcium is a Must-Have!

Calcium is extremely important to pregnant women, young children and in the prevention of osteoporosis. While certain groups of people are at a higher risks of contracting osteoporosis – such as post-menopausal women, seniors above aged 65, smokers and heavy drinkers, working to protect bone health is relevant and important to everyone. (Read more here)
Foods that contain more than 17.5g of fat per 100g are considered high in fat.

Admittedly, cheese and butter can content a lot of fat. Foods that contain more than 17.5g of fat per 100g are considered high in fat. If you’re really worried about the fat content of food, you may also opt for low-fat or skimmed milk; reduced-fat hard cheeses; and low-fat yoghurt.

Losing out on these nutrients could also result in:
  • Increased risk of cramping
  • Fatigue, poor recovery and increased risk of injury
  • Reduced focus and worsened cognitive function

Just as eating is a very integral part, lack of nutrition is definitely going to affect your daily living.

References: NSCA, NHS

How Music Keeps Your Body Healthy

How Music Keeps Your Body Healthy
We use music in our SMFB sessions all the time. *NEWS FLASH! If you’d like to contribute to our SMFB workout playlist, click here for our collaborative Spotify playlist.* That’s because apart from livening up the environment, it does a whole lot more.
listening to music

How Music Changes Your Exercise

  1. Increases our tendencies to move to synchronous sounds (It keeps everyone on pace and we can also increase the intensity according to the beat)
  2. Arouses our desire to get up and participate in exercises
  3. Distracts us from the discomfort of exercise such as fatigue and breathlessness

Keeping Healthy For Life

Music can be extremely useful in encouraging active ageing. Studies have been previously done on sedentary seniors and results showed that exercising with music can make the whole process more enjoyable, reduce perceived exertion levels and also encourage more exercising. (Senior women on this study who listened to music while exercising walked longer than those who did not!) Exercising while listening to music can also improve cognitive function of seniors, specifically in visuospatial function.
Visuospatial function is a cognitive function that allows us to process and interpret visual information about where objects are in space. These objects could be furnitures, other people and ourselves. It underlies plenty of activities in daily living such as reaching for utensils to eat, walking around the neighbourhood without bumping into others or things. And the fact is, it is also normal for visuospatial ability to decline with age.
Apart from visuospatial function, music has been demonstrated to:
  • Improve performance in oxygen uptake and flexibility
  • Reduce feelings of pain during movement rehabilitation and therapy
  • Enhance quality of life of seniors living in nursing homes
Read more evidences on the benefits of music use here.
The thing is, it is not yet conclusive which type of music actually improves performance although on the whole, music encourages movement and improves cognitive function for people with dementia. So, it doesn’t matter what you like, pick your favourite and work out a sweat now!

How Physical Literacy is more important than you think?

How Physical Literacy is more important than you think?

What’s physical literacy?

As we research for preschools and holiday programmes for our kids to attend, we’ve heard of language and numeracy (among others). For every one of the core curriculum, there are foundational courses that lead to more advanced syllabus. Before we learn how to read and write, we learn the alphabets. Before we can even attempt algebra or even multiplication and division, we learn numbers. Similarly, movement also has foundational courses. Before we can serve at tennis, dribble a basketball or even ace at catching, we have to first learn how to walk, run, hop, leap and balance properly.

14310545_1806621916223031_2539282384487073752_oWhat that means?

  1. Stay safe and move effectively
  2. Build the confidence to acquire more complex movement skills and participate in group sporting activities
  3. Learn better, especially so with processing information and memory work

There are tons of research out there about how movement supports learning. For starters, exercise grows the size of your brain. A study in 2002 has shown that those who exercise have far more cortical mass than those who don’t (Anderson, Eckburg, & Relucio, 2002). Exercising encourages blood flow to the brain and also feeds it with neurotropins (high-nutrient chemical “packages” that increases the number of connections between neurons). More connections equate to faster reactions, improved balance and sports performance. 


(Source: ASCD)

The second important reason is that exercise activates the cerebellum. The part of the brain influencing movement and it’s also the same as the part of the brain influencing learning. The cerebellum takes up just one-tenth of the brain by volume, but it contains nearly half of all its neurons (Ivry & Fiez, 2000). Most of these neural connections are outbound and directed to other parts of the brain involved in memory, attention, and spatial perception.

IMG_8856Did you know?

Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging has demonstrated that we think about our movements before we actually move. This allows us to control them better (Flanagan, Vetter, Johansson, & Wolpert, 2003). This process of thinking then moving suggests that all motor activities are preceded by quick thought processes. Pulling this off activates various connections at all sensory areas. (Source)

That is why moving increases brain development – and it’s the same part of the brain involved in memory, attention, and spatial perception.

How to introduce physical literacy?

The wonderful thing about physical literacy is that they can be easily combined with the teaching of core curriculums. Talk to us about it today.

What’s Purpose – and How to Get Some?

What’s Purpose – and How to Get Some?

Strong Mind Fit Body (SMFB) believes in a nation where we can all age bravely – a dream built on empathy and compassion. In our work, SMFB Champs act as advocates and change-makers in transforming this dream into reality. Since we started, our team has decided from early on that the development of every individual crossing paths with SMFB was foundational for our good work to continue to flourish. For this reason, there has been extensive research done to design ways to support our SMFB Champs in their learning.


The Champions Development Programme has since been implemented (from January 2017), introducing various training sessions called “Champs’ Circles” to equip SMFB Champs with the social and emotional capacities, through providing safe spaces for introspection. These spaces are facilitated by internal expertise or external vendors so that every SMFB Champ grows from his or her SMFB Journey.

Join us here.

What’s Next? SCDP for Secondary Schools and JC.

Student Champion Development Programme (SCDP) rolled out this year and is designed to benefit SMFB Champs aged 15-17. It’s for students to develop community engagement and problem solving skills while partaking in self-exploration sessions.


The learning outcomes of SCDP is developed along two threads –
(1) Student Development Goals
(2) Project Management Skills

The former focuses intensely on self-reflection and emotional leadership development with content gathered from research of Daniel Goleman’s work, among others; the latter is modelled after the Appreciate Inquiry Framework and Design Thinking philosophies.

Together the learning outcomes are interwoven into carefully designed 2-hour training sessions, conducted for 6 months. Out of which, 5 months is dedicated to experimenting and applying of community problem-solving skills. The sandbox of possibilities is no less than a learning lab filled with hope, guidance and inspiration.


The buzz of the 21st century conversation surrounding young people often questions how and why young people engage in community service – the stepping stones to doing good work and doing good work well is encompassed in the 6-month SCDP Journey designed especially for students aged 15-17.

We welcome educators and individual students to approach us with questions about involvement and partnership at Together, we can inspire the next generation of effective change-makers.