Sunrise in the City: Singapore’s Best-Kept Fitness Secret

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In price-obsessed Singapore, there exists a way for working professionals to enjoy the benefits of rising early, travelling to work and keeping fit absolutely free – no strings attached.

By Thompson Wong

If you want in on Singapore’s biggest fitness secret, this is it. I still remember performing a double-take when I first chanced upon Sunrise in the City (SITC). A colleague, waxing lyrical about this mythical programme offered by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB), spoke dreamily of fitness classes at premium/boutique commercial gyms and studios offered for Singaporeans in the country’s main business districts for free. No hidden costs.

There had to be a caveat, I thought. Well, yes. All one has to do is wake up at least an hour or two before your usual waking time, as classes are typically offered between 7.00 – 8.00am. It sounds relatively straightforward, but as most working professionals will know, an extra hour of shut-eye falls in sacred territory. No one wants their sleep interrupted.

But let’s break down all the benefits:

  1. Free fitness classes – HPB works in collaboration with key industry gym partners to provide over 60 workout sessions a week across body combat, hot yoga, zumba, circuit training, functional fitness classes, open gyms and more. As a guide, a typical one-day visitor pass at Fitness First costs $50, while a monthly pass for multi-activity fitness booking app GuavaPass is $149. HPB pays for the classes.
  2. Free transport – if you’re getting up that early to head to an SITC class in the CBD, your travel is essentially free if you tap out at certain centrally-located train stations before 7.45am, thanks to the Travel Smart Network, a transport initiative offering free pre-peak travel.
  3. Rising early – The health benefits of rising early has been extolled for ages – it enhances productivity, is great for mental health, adds extra hours and is associated with calmness and a rush-free start to the day. Even Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) gained global attention for creating a motivational clock app synced to his legendary 4am alarms.

SITC’s participating industry partners are of quality, including Fitness First, True Fitness, True Yoga, BIG Fitness, One Wellness Fitness Club, Platinum Yoga, Radiance PhysioFit, amongst others. According to HPB, the partners were selected as they share “similar goals as HPB in advocating active living towards building a more active culture for sustained physical activity.”

Today, the programme is thriving. As of 2016, SITC recorded over 8,000 subscribers – a far cry from the 200 participants during the initial launch in February 2013. Branching out beyond dawn workouts, SITC has now piloted lunchtime and weekend classes too. Given its popularity, it’s not uncommon to see SITC classes fully booked for the month, as they are offered on a first-come first-served basis.

Having personally tried out SITC classes (specifically the circuit training and open gym sessions offered at Radiance Physiofit) over the last year, I can testify to the programme’s usefulness. It frees up evenings which were once spent on the occasional half-hearted fitness activity, and is a great destressing tool. There is also something unexplainably satisfying about successfully managing to get up and prepare the morning before the rest of the world awakens.

Moving from strength to strength, HPB has noted it will refine its initiatives and programmes through feedback to expand or evolve SITC. HPB ultimately hopes to make fitness more accessible – it wants to increase and sustain active behaviour by encouraging Singapore residents to pick up a sport or physical activity. According to a spokesperson,  SITC and other popular HPB fitness programs will be scaled up, with a planned increase in workout sessions islandwide from 240 sessions weekly in 2016 to over 300 sessions weekly in 2017.

In short? There’s really no excuse to get your fitness game on.

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Similar fitness programmes offered by HPB:

  • Hour-long workout sessions available at selected parks on Sundays, typically from 8.30am to 9.30am or 5pm to 6pm.
  • Residents pick from 16 different types of exercise classes, including yoga, kickboxing and Zumba, an aerobic dance to rhythmic high-energy music.
  • Targeted at families and neighbours to get together and bond, while also normalising the concept of using public spaces within residential vicinities for regular group physical activities.
  • As at end December 2016, about 14,000 participants have attended the programme across 72 parks island-wide.
  • Hour-long workout sessions catering to working adults looking to get active after working hours.
  • Organised at six workout venues around the central business district, sessions include aerobic-infused mixed dance fitness programmes such as Zumba, Modern Dance, Boxercise and Body Combat routines.
  • To further encourage residents to be physically active, HPB also brings exercise sessions closer to residents under the Community Physical Activity Programme.
  • Comprises 20 different exercise types of varying intensities, held at over 100 sites within the 12 Healthy Community Ecosystems.

Images by Health Promotion Board


Sunrise in the City is a free fitness programme offered by the Health Promotion Board for working adults through workout sessions near their workplaces. Book a class and visit www.hpb.gov.sg for more information.

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