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30 minutes a day keeps the disease away!

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Almost 40% of Malaysians are physically inactive also known as the dominant risk factor of morbidity and mortality worldwide [1, 2]. Healthy lifestyles include not only eating right but also moving right. Any kind of physical activity or movement can help to promote a healthier and stronger body in different stages of life. Managing our eating patterns and meals’ portions may help to control the calorie intake, but conducting physical activities can aid in energy expenditure for the excess calories consumed and strengthen one’s muscles [3]. However, there is a slight difference between physical activity and exercise. Physical activities are any bodily movements produced by the skeletal muscles, whereas exercise is more structured and purposeful activity that involve repetitive movements of a particular muscle [3, 7].

Exercise is fundamental for good health and fresh mind [3]. The recommendations according to the Ministry of Health Malaysia is 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least 5 times per week. For example, brisk walking, climbing or badminton. Or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise minimum 3 times a week such as jogging, aerobic dancing or swimming in laps [3, 5]. Getting fit physically is not the only benefit of exercise. Mental health can be improved through exercise as well [3].  

  1. Strengthen muscles and bones

In exercise, persistent muscle contractions either for a long or short period of time aid in maintaining muscle mass and strength [3]. Especially for females with higher possibilities of having osteoporosis to maintain bone density and avoid breaking easily during ageing [3, 5, 8]. Lower risk of joint and back pain problems due to stronger ligaments and muscles, also ensuring the joint in proper alignment. Besides, exercise does promote better blood circulation and pulmonary system in terms of effective oxygen and glucose delivery to muscles [3].

  1. Lower stress and anxiety

Being active can help in moderating the brain’s response to stress thus reducing one’s stress level [3]. Because of the hormone regulation in the brain which helps one to calm down of his or her emotions and decrease anxiety episodes. Anxiety sensitivity can be lowered with activities like jumping or treadmill exercise. Moreover, people tend to feel more tired after exercising, which prepares one to go into deep sleep more easily for a better rest [3].  

  1. Boost self-confidence and positive body image

Physical fitness enhances positive self image and self-confidence. As exercising creates positive emotions and euphoria with the release of endorphins [3]. Other than that, misconception and social pressure towards one’s physical appearance increases over the years. Yet, body image varies from one and another with different shape, size and weight. Exercise to stay fit and manage body’s health is crucial to limit the risk of diseases, not mainly about physical appearance. 

  1. Limit risk of non-communicable diseases (hypertension, diabetes, cancer) [8]

3 in 10 Malaysians are suffering high blood pressure [4]; while rises of cancer cases are often related to sedentary lifestyles [3, 6, 9]. For example, the heart is made of myocardium (heart muscles) which function to pump blood and oxygen to the whole body. Optimal efficiency of blood pumping by the heart can be improved with exercise to minimize strains and strengthen heart muscles. Blood vessels throughout the body are able to maintain elasticity and flexibility to sustain blood pressure and blood flow with regular exercise [3].

  1. Prevent obesity 

For Malaysia, more than 64% of the population is either overweight or obesity [10]. Obesity is a common risk factor for most health complications at all ages [3, 6]. It tends to complicate the diseases’ progression that leads to undesirable outcomes. As mentioned previously, energy consumed and energy expended must be balanced to avoid the excess weight gain that is stored as fat in the body.  By doing daily exercise, one can burn off the excess calories to manage weight, also with the guidance of a proper nutritious diet [3].

Start now, even baby steps make a difference. 

References:

  1. Azahadi, O., Lim, K., K., Hazizi, A., S., Khoo, Y., Y., Siti, F., M., H., Joanita, S., 2015. Physical inactivity among Malaysian Adults: Which domain is the worst? Medical Journal of Malaysia, 70(1).
  2. Cheah, Y., K. and Poh, B., K., 2014. The Determinants of Participation in Physical Activity in Malaysia. Osong Public Health and Research Perspectives, 5(1), pp. 20-27.
  3. Elmagd, M., A., 2016. Benefits, need and importance of daily exercise. International Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Health, 3(5), pp. 22-27.
  4. Institute of Public Health, 2020. National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019: Non-communicable diseases, healthcare demand and health literacy- Key Findings.
  5. Ministry of Health Malaysia, 2020. Be physically active everyday. Malaysian Dietary Guidelines, pp. 38-62.
  6. Tan, C., L., Bonn, G., Yeoh, S., H., Yap, C., C., Wong, C., P., 2016. Physical Activity and Its Correlates among Adults in Malaysia: A Cross Sectional Descriptive Study. PLoS ONE, 11(6), pp. 1-14.
  7. Vina, J., Gomar, F., S., Bello, V., M., Cabrera, M., C., 2012. Exercise acts as a drug; the pharmacological benefits of exercise. British Journal of Pharmacology, 167(1), pp. 1-12.
  8. Warburton, D., E., R., Nicol, C., W., Bredin, S., S., D., 2006. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174(6), pp. 801-809. 
  9. World Health Organization, 2014. Cancer Country Profiles, Malaysia.
  10. World Health Organization, 2019. Malaysia and WHO call for more investment in primary health care the 21st century. [Online] Available at: https://www.who.int/malaysia/news/detail/08-04-2019-malaysia-and-who-call-for-more-investment-in-primary-health-care-the-21st-century#:~:text=Malaysia%20has%20the%20highest%20rate,being%20either%20obese%20or%20overweight. [Accessed 28 Oct 2020]

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