Forging Unity The Aerobics Way

Last update: 30/08/2019

By Kurniawati Kamarudin

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- On weekends, the Alam Damai recreation park comes alive early in the morning when 20 to 30 women get together to perform aerobics to the pulsating rhythm of popular English or Malay, and occasionally Chinese or Tamil, numbers.

They are led by A’eshahton Mohamad Yunos, a 64-year-old feisty grandmother who had no idea that the aerobic workouts she and her friend had embarked on some 18 years ago would attract quite a following and even foster unity among the multiracial residents who live near the park.

A’eshahton, or Ummy as she is fondly called by her friends, said after she and her friend started their aerobic sessions at the Alam Damai park, visitors would approach them to find out if they could join them as well.

Thus, began the group sessions that have grown in popularity over the years, with some 20 to 30 women participating in each session that starts at 7.15 am every Saturday and Sunday and on public holidays.

It is indeed interesting to watch this group of women from diverse racial backgrounds partake in some fun, laughter and camaraderie as they stretch, jump and move to the music blaring from the audio player.



According to A’eshahton, who is a tuition teacher and certified aerobics instructor as well, there is no fee to participate in the one-and-a-half-hour long aerobics sessions and it is open to all those who come to the recreation park.

Initially, her intention of doing aerobics in the park was to sweat it out and keep herself fit.

"Then my intention expanded to helping to foster close ties among the residents here through exercise. Every weekend, not only do the regulars turn up but also newcomers who will become our friends," this grandmother of one who hails from Muar, Johor told Bernama.

Her warm and affable personality makes it easy for her mingle with people regardless of their race and religion. It also helps that she understands and speaks Mandarin and Tamil which she picked up from her friends.



Recalling how she ended up conducting aerobic sessions at the Alam Damai recreation park, A’eshahton -- who loves outdoor activities including mountain climbing -- said she moved to Taman Damai Perdana in Cheras in 2001 and since it is located close to the park, she found the latter an ideal place to work out. 

"Using our Walkman, my friend and I would do aerobics together. One day, a Chinese woman asked us if she could join us and asked how much we would charge. I told her it was free and invited her to join us. Our group started growing after that," she said.

Over the years, A’eshahton's friendship with her group members blossomed and often, they would end their exercise session with a potluck meal.

At least once in three months, they would have a gathering to celebrate birthdays, festivals like Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year and Deepavali, and even National Day.

"We will meet at my house or at the park and each of us would bring something to eat. Our Chinese friends would bring fruits or drinks as they understand the food restrictions of the Muslims," she added.

A’eshahton also said that interracial conflicts saddened her and she felt that any prejudice against other races can be overcome if the people become more tolerant and try to understand one another.

"Sports unites us... we can strengthen relationships by participating together in healthy pursuits," she said.



Cecie Cheah, 58, who has been a part of A'eshahton's aerobics group for the past 10 years, said the workout sessions have not only made her fitter but enabled her to make new friends as well.

Grateful for the free aerobics "classes", Cheah said, in the beginning, she would just "spy" on the aerobic activity from a corner of the park.

"Being the kind and friendly person that she is, Ummy invited me to join them. Since then, I've not missed out on any session," she said, adding that she and the other group members would exchange their views on a number of topics, including the dance forms of the various races.

"We are like a big family here and we respect one another and care about each other. We also have a WhatsApp group where we share a lot of things with each other," added Cheah. 


Translated by Rema Nambiar