Keeping Physically and Mentally Fit with Exercise

The Straits Times, Fit And Fab MIND&BODY, Page B9

PUBLISHED SEP 1, 2015, 5:00 AM SGT

Mr Andrew Ang, who has three children, one of whom has autism, believes regular exercise helps reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. No matter how busy he is, he makes sure he exercises at least three times a week, and for at least an hour each time. He runs at least 20km and swims 3km each week. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Bio Box

Age: 42
Height: 1.73m
Weight: 65kg
Don’t take it wrong if you hear Mr Andrew Ang say that exercise is his last priority. The Singaporean owner of a life and general insurance agency business actually means it is the last thing he does in a day.
No matter how busy he is, he makes sure he exercises at least three times a week, and for at least an hour each time. “I can be very tired after 12 to 14 hours of work but I will push myself to do some exercise,” he said.
Exercise is what keeps him physically as well as mentally fit to deal with the demands of his work and family life. He and his financial consultant wife, Corrine, 39, have three children – Charlotte, 11; Alexander, nine; and Abraham, eight. His older son is severely autistic and also needs a gluten-free diet.
“As a father of three, including one who is autistic, exercise is all the more important to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.”
Mr Ang started working from the age of seven in his parent’s farm, where they reared pigs and ducks and grew durian trees. He became an electronic engineer but switched career in order to have more flexibility and to better provide for his family.

Joyce Teo speaks to financial planner Andrew Ang about finding time to exercise each week

Q Given your long and irregular day, how do you fit in your exercise?

I work about 12 to 15 hours daily but make it a point to exercise three or four times a week.
For instance, I keep my swim and running gear in my car. If a client should cancel an appointment at the last minute, or if I were to finish earlier, I would go for a swim or run. I’ve swum past midnight because it was my only free time.
I may use my client’s condominium pool or drive to the nearest stadium or park for a 10km to 15km run.

Q What has your experience with depression taught you?

I’ve learnt to see things in a positive light, to constantly set new goals to divert attention from unproductive thoughts.
Q Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?
Yes, when I found out that my first girlfriend had a new boyfriend. I suffered from depression at 16 that lasted for about a year.
Back then, I was lonely because most of my close friends had not made it to the polytechnic and I was busy doing part-time work to earn pocket money. I even attempted suicide.
Q How important is it for you to keep up with your fitness routine?
It’s definitely my priority, as exercise can help save lives.
I had depression when I was a teenager. Exercise proved to be the best treatment. I also had hyperthyroidism in 2001, when I lost 8kg in six weeks and discovered blood in my stools and urine.
Luckily, the problem went away after about two years, during which I exercised regularly.
I put together a training programme that consisted of gym workouts and outdoor sports like swimming, running, blading and cycling. Today, my daily exercise routine lasts from one to four hours. I run at least 20km and swim 3km each week.

About 11 years ago, after my first child was born, I went through another unfit phase. I was overcome with worry about my daughter’s congenital heart disease and, later, my son’s autism.
I switched to another job to ensure I earn more, because I was worried about the medical costs of my children’s conditions.

Q What happened after that?
I was hospitalised a few times. I lost my job and my immune system was weak. I then decided to return to exercising again.
Now, I take part in about two races a year. I just completed the Singapore International Triathlon in July. I took 31/2 hours to complete a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run. I also participated in the Manhunt contest last year.

Q How has your active lifestyle influenced your family and friends?
Many of my friends became fitter after joining me in the gym and for outdoor aerobic exercises. My dad picked up running a few years ago and I can see he’s happier.

Q What is your diet like?
I work long hours, so I drink coffee to stay alert. But I avoid other sugary drinks and have home- cooked food that my mother-in-law prepares for dinner. For breakfast, I usually have oatmeal and, for lunch, rice and a few vegetable dishes.

Q What are your indulgences?
All kinds of sinful local food like laksa and fried kway teow, and beer. But I will keep track of my indulgences to make sure I don’t go overboard.

Q How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Playing with my kids, watching movies or singing karaoke with my family. Once a while, I play golf. I also love to read and am attempting to go through my big collection of mostly non-fiction books.

Q What are the three most important things in your life?
Family, friends and my personal values.

Q What’s your favourite body part?
Seriously, I feel blessed with a healthy body and mind. Maybe my favourite part is my soul.

Q Do you think you’re sexy?
I am if I think I am. Sexy is an attitude and it all depends on my mood at the point of time. I can be sexy if I feel like it.

A morning jog along Bedok Reservoir Road.
A 1.5km swim at a client’s condo pool or any Safra or public swimming pool.
A combination of physical activities, either run-swim-run or swim-cycle-run.
Several rounds of push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups and other exercises.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline ‘Keeping physically and mentally fit with exercise’.