New insights from Herbalife Nutrition’s Asia Pacific Health Inertia Survey 2021 have found that Singaporeans are not in the pink of health. In fact, more than 2 in 5 (44%) Singaporeans rate their physical health as ‘poor’, higher than the region-wide¹ average of 39%. Among those whose physical health has deteriorated, the top reason cited for this negative impact is the lack of physical activity (67%).
However, what is encouraging is that more than 8 in 10 (81%) Singaporeans are planning to exercise more frequently in the next 12 months, with 60% aiming to do so by creating a regular exercise routine. Their top motivations include getting in shape (47%) and to improve their physical health (45%).
Conducted in July and August 2021, the survey polled 5,496 consumers aged 18 and above in 11 Asia Pacific markets, including Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The survey revealed insights into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumers’ health, as well as their attitudes and behaviours towards improving their well-being.
A clear desire to eat healthier
Only 2 in 5 (45%) of Singaporeans started eating healthier as a result of the pandemic, below the regional average of 65%. In fact, Singapore trails behind its Southeast Asian neighbours such as Vietnam (78%); Indonesia (75%); Philippines (73%); Thailand (63%) and Malaysia (58%).
The stressful nature of the pandemic has undoubtedly led to some unhealthy eating habits as a coping mechanism, driven by access to unhealthy snacks (71%) and binge-eating due to anxiety (44%).
Looking ahead, an overwhelming majority (86%) of Singaporeans intend to adopt healthier diets in the next 12 months. Among the key steps they would take to improve their diets include drinking more water (73%), incorporating more vegetables and meals into their meals (60%) and reducing consumption of sugar and sweets (60%).
Exercising boosts Singaporeans’ mental health
Compared to 12 months ago, while 24% of Singaporeans feel that their current state of mental health has worsened, a similar proportion (21%) has seen improvements. Interestingly, of the latter figure, exercising (54%) was cited as the top factor that contributed to better mental health.
“The results attest to what science has long proven: that physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that leave people feeling happier and more relaxed. Amid hectic schedules, even frequent bouts of physical activity – or ‘exercise snacks’ – can go a long way in improving moods and sedentary lifestyles. Coupled with good carbohydrates such as fruits, non-starchy vegetables and whole grains, individuals can lower blood glucose throughout the day, thus keeping lethargy and hunger at bay,” said Dr Luigi Gratton, Herbalife Nutrition’s Vice President, Training.
We asked Dr Luigi what are ‘exercise snacks’ (no…it’s not snacking while exercising) and he replied, “Exercise snacks are short, frequent bouts of physical activity that can be easily performed throughout the day. The beauty of this is you don’t need any equipment and can easily integrate them into your daily routine. Examples of ‘exercise snacks’ include walking up and down the stairs, jogging in place in between work, or doing intermittent jumping jacks and push-ups while watching TV. Exercise ‘snacking’ just a few minutes throughout the day can go a long way in improving sedentary lifestyles as well as fitness.”
Dr Luigi also recommends a balanced nutrition approach to promote overall well-being. This entails integrating a medley of essential ingredients in one’s daily calorie intake: 40% good carbohydrates; 30% beneficial fats; 30% protein; 25% fibre; and 8 glasses of water daily.
Tips to start off a sustainable exercise and diet plan
It is easy to want to dive straight into a weight loss plan that starts with a strict diet and daily runs but we all know that it’s unsustainable as most people will quit after a month (or so). Dr Luigi gave his advice:
“You must set realistic and achievable goals. This can begin with easy, short-term goals, like increasing your daily step count, adding more greens into your daily diet, or switching out your go-to choices for healthier alternatives. For example, instead of using condensed milk for your tea or coffee, use unsweetened almond milk as it contains less sugar. Once these goals become part of your lifestyle, it will be easier to keep up. Little achievements along the way can also progressively help you achieve bigger, long-term goals, whether it is weight management or overall improvements in health and fitness.
Do get your friends and family involved in your health and fitness journey. It could be a weekly cycling expedition, yoga classes or even a hike in the park. Their company may motivate you while you sweat it out. It’s also an opportunity to bond that makes exercising all the more enjoyable too.”
¹ Regional Southeast Asian markets: Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.
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