First and foremost, what is the AIA Health Living Index all about?
The AIA Health Living Index begun in 2011 when AIA commissioned the first survey with the objective of understanding how adults across 15 of AIA’s markets in Asia Pacific feel about (1) their health and (2) their concerns on and hopes for living a healthier life.
As of this year, it has been 5 years and three waves of AIA Health Living Index surveys.
And all we have to show for it was that Malaysians in general hasn’t changed much in that time!
In the recent survey, Malaysia received another mediocre score.
The survey takers were 18 years or older and there were a total of 751 respondents for the 2016 survey.
While the index in other countries showed improvements, the majority of Malaysians are not satisfied with their health. On the contrary Malaysians voiced their concerns that their health has deteriorated in the last five years.
And thus at the launch of the 2016 AIA Health Living Index results last week, a group of panelists and invited guests were part of an engaging and insightful conversation.
Mr Thomas Isaac (Director of Intuit Research), Ms Indra Balaratnam (Consultant Dietitian) and Jacqueline Wong (HOD Learning and Development of Fitness First Asia) were the key speakers, and the panel discussion was moderated by Dr Myralini, Medical Director and Head of Care Management, AIA Health Services Sdn Bhd.
Here are the key takeaway points from the hour session:
1. Malaysians spent too much time on the internet/phone/computers (screen time).
Indra, the Consultant Dietitian, joked that if there could be a control in our smartphones that only allows the owner to access the phone/apps/games AFTER a 30 mins workout, we could very well be on our way to a healthier BMI!
Well, I’m an addict to FB and internet too.
But there are times when I put my “screen time” into good use.
For example, I follow an online HIIT program by “Stronger”. The HIIT series of workouts is FREE and each 35 – 45 mins session gives you an efficient, fat burning workout.
Jacqueline Wong added that we could make technology work for us.
There are many tracking and fitness apps that keep the user incentivized besides providing tips, information and instructions.
2. Malaysians are selective in their attempts to be healthier – eating more fruits, drinking more water BUT NOT EXERCISING more!
Well, it is easier to EAT/DRINK than to move that body isn’t it?
Yes, that includes me too. But we have to remember that moderation is key to a healthier life.
3. Eating healthy = EXPEN$IVE.
Indra said simple meals, even at your local mamak or chap fun (economy rice) stall.
I agree with her on this.
There are times I do not have time to meal prep, especially when I got myself committed to too many meetings. Eating at local coffeeshops or mamak can be LESS calorific if you are disciplined enough to make the right choices.
Here’s an example.
I would always eat a plate like this (RM5.50).
Steamed or braised or pan fried proteins, less greasy vegetables. SMALL rice or no rice.
Most people on the other hand would pile up their plates like this – deep fried chicken, meat in thick sauces and greasy vegetables plus ‘tambah nasi‘ (RM7.50).
See the difference?
It is not ideal (you would not have control of grease and salt in commercially prepared food) but you can still make a difference in total calories if you MAKE AN EFFORT.
4. Malaysians want to be healthier but do not know how to go about it, or they need constant motivation.
Many Malaysians need to be guided and motivated constantly, Indra had said.
She joked too that after 3 years of taking this survey, it could be the very same individuals taking the survey again and again with no improvements!
But on a serious note, Dr Myra, Indra, Isaac and Jacqueline applauded the Ministry of Health and local event organisers for the constant fitness related events in recent years.
“It has become exciting and fun – being involved in fitness. People are buying into the idea of fitness being a lifestyle,” the panelists concluded.
I agree with them again.
I’m a loner at heart, but I do enjoy group workouts and having company and guidance from a certified instructor.
Hence I rotate my activities of lone runs with group hikes and yoga classes.
“Our thoughts translate into action. In any aspect of life, one has to possess a good mindset to succeed. The choice is yours.” Indra also stated.
5. Malaysians make unsustainable goals.
Instead of saying “I will run 5km every morning!“, try “I will start by walking 2 km on Mon, Wed, Fri”.
“Make realistic goals”, Jaqueline Wong of Fitness First quipped.
“If you can get up and out of bed and start walking, it is an achievement, small as it is. Then work/chalk up the miles from there”.
The panelists concluded that “ANY effort is a good effort“.
As the session came to an end (as my stomach protested loudly to be fed), everyone present went home in agreement on this:
- Make realistic health and fitness goals.
- Goals are a must, otherwise there is no benchmark and no ambition.
- The goals has to be set by the individual himself/herself. The fire and need has to come from within. It has to be something that the person personally want, and thus will be more inclined to achieve those goals.
- To succeed and for it to be sustainable, select an activity that you like. Choose to eat what you like too. There is not point forcing yourself to eat broccoli if you hate it. Try spinach instead.
- DO IT NOW. If not now, then WHEN?
You can start a goal anytime. It doesn’t have to be during the new year or when you finally “have time” or when you can fit into that nice sports top.
Just get moving!