Exercise should not be in a bubble

Obesity must end! A bit of an exaggeration on my part, but the call was made by a deputy minister to curb this health risk.

The problem with Malaysians is that we have no issues with exercising, but we tend to have amnesia afterwards.

Let me explain. One thing Malaysians are known for is our tendency to follow trends.

When our badminton team won the Thomas Cup years ago, badminton courts were packed and makeshift courts sprouted everywhere.

Whenever Azizulhasni Awang wins a medal at any cycling competition, a bunch of cyclists come out of hibernation.

After a month or two, the racquets stopped hitting and the pedals stopped moving. Our semangat tends to fade, and the calories and fat come back.

However, the same could not be said for the exercising culture of Malaysians.

We toil away in the early mornings to prepare for a jog or walk. We gear up with our immaculate shoes and trendy exercise outfits to face the daunting outdoors.

Buckets of sweat and tears amassed under the heat of the morning sun after a series of stretches and exercise.

It feels great to take a rest after giving our best effort to reduce weight and be healthy.

We pack up to go home.

Once on the road, an amnesia quite often sets in, as we then stop the car at a nasi lemak stall besides the road.

We order the rich coconut milk infused rice topped with a fried egg and drenched in oily sambal, with a side of anchovies and a sweet teh tarik for breakfast.

I am not against our national dish or beverage. Just that it sort of negates the hard-earned fitness gains from the workout.

Consider another scenario.

After painstakingly finishing a 3km morning jog, we find the nearest parking spot to our favourite stall or shop as our entire body forgets about the virtue of walking.

It seems that exercising for us exists in a bubble.

Rather than visiting a nasi lemak stall, pack some healthy snacks, fruits or health bars with a bottle of milk or juice to fill the empty stomach after exercise.

Do not vie for the nearest empty space. Walk the extra mile if you have to. Re-start your smart watch or phone and add those steps to your exercise statistics.

Of course, I'm generalising. There are many out there who lead a healthy lifestyle.

They form the average Joe who understands the benefit of exercise and who values a wellness programme in their daily lives.

The purpose here is to awaken our minds to the amnesia that others experience when it involves exercise. Breaking away from this unfortunate condition would make us a less obese nation.

For those who are bored with jogging, walking or hiking, learn martial arts. Our country is blessed with many cultures with a multitude of martial arts from around the world.

Our Indian friends have silambam, kalari payat and gatka with an array of exotic weapons that take a lifetime to master.

Chinese Malaysians are proud of their martial heritage through the hard and precise shaolin kung fu styles to the softer tai chi and bagua styles that focus on breathing and inner strength.

There are numerous silat styles that include the acrobatic silat seni gayong, the dance-like silat gayung fatani, the toughness of silat lincah, the straightforward silat cekak, the precision of silat kuntau tekpi and the barehanded fencing of silat sendeng Malaysia.

Not to mention globally established martial arts such as karate, taekwondo, aikido, capoeira, escrima, judo, wrestling and fencing.

We can be a nation of zero-obesity. Malaysians have so many resources, both natural and cultural, to draw on in order to engage in a healthy lifestyle.

At the end of the day, health is the most precious thing.

Malaysians should escape their post-exercise norms and start living a life that makes them feel great while reducing weight in a constant manner.

The writer is a senior lecturer at the School of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management, Universiti Utara Malaysia

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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