Better health, one step at a time

This infographic shows how you can allocate 10 minutes for activity on your way to work or school.
This infographic shows how you can allocate 10 minutes for activity on your way to work or school.PHOTO: HEALTH PROMOTION BOARD

Get moving, sedentary people. You will find you have more energy and not tire so easily

If you are trying to lose weight and get healthier, should you start with changing your diet or exercising more?

A 2013 study from Stanford University showed that people are most successful when they tackle diet and exercise habits at the same time.

This is something that the Health Promotion Board (HPB) hopes to encourage people to do. "Diet and exercise are equally important. You cannot do without one or the other," said an HPB spokeman.

To that end, the HPB has launched the second season of the National Steps Challenge at the beginning of this month.

The new challenge has been expanded to include a Corporate Challenge component, thematic challenges and new features to motivate even more Singaporeans to take more steps.

Studies have shown that even small increments in the volume of activity can have improved health outcomes. For sedentary adults, walking the recommended 7,500 to 10,000 steps daily can contribute to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, as well as improved glucose control.

The first season of the challenge had 156,000 people moving more. It encouraged participants who were previously sedentary to increase the time spent on physical activity. About four in five participants who were sedentary became active after joining the challenge.

Studies have shown that even small increments in the volume of activity can have improved health outcomes.

For sedentary adults, walking the recommended 7,500 to 10,000 steps daily can contribute to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, as well as improved glucose control.

Physical activity keeps your heart, lungs and bones healthy, said the HPB spokesman.

It improves blood circulation through your heart, lungs and blood vessels. Your heart muscles get stronger when you engage in aerobic activity regularly.

You will find that you have more energy to do the things you enjoy and would not tire so easily, said the spokesman.

  • Corporate Challenge

  • The National Steps Challenge is still open for registration by all Singaporeans, permanent residents and foreigners aged 18 years and above.

    The Corporate Challenge starts on Nov 14 and continues till Feb 28 next year. Registration will close on Oct 16.

    Interested organisations can call 6796-9346 or e-mail nsccc@SPOC.com.sg for a copy of the registration form.

    The top three participating organisations with the highest average number of steps stand to win cash prizes up to $10,000.

With two to three hours of physical activity a week, you can reduce the chances of developing chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.

Your concentration, attention span and psychological health are likely to improve and the risk of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and cancer will be reduced.

And you can do this by making small adjustments to your daily routine. It is easy to start an active lifestyle, whether you are at work, home or school, said the HPB spokesman.

For example, allocate an extra 10 minutes for your usual routine when you go to work or school (see photo).

Eating healthier food

Diet is just as important in the quest for health. And you should choose your calories carefully.

While all food and drinks contain calories, not all sources of calories are equal, said the HPB spokesman.

Nutrient-dense foods are foods that contain a high level of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals but relatively fewer calories.

These include vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, healthy fats such as nuts and healthier oils, and lean protein like fish, tofu and beans.

Fats (9kcal per gram) and carbohydrates (4kcal per gram) are the main sources of dietary calories.

Proteins also provide important amounts of calories (4kcal per gram), especially when total calorie intake is limited.

While carbohydrates contain fewer calories per gram than fats, the diets of people in Singapore contain largely refined carbohydrate foods, for example, white rice.

This is of concern as diets high in refined carbohydrates have been linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. The HPB's advice is to replace refined starchy staples with wholegrain varieties like brown rice and wholemeal bread.

To help you in the quest for better health, you can track the progress of your calorie input and output with HPB's Healthy 365 mobile application. It allows users to track not only the calories burnt through taking part in the National Steps Challenge but also monitor their calorie intake based on food consumed, via the app's diet journal.

As the database is local and includes specific local dishes, the calorie count would be more accurate when compared to other apps which include non-local food.

Ng Wan Ching

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Better health, one step at a time'. Print Edition | Subscribe