Why It Matters

Healthy habits last a lifetime

We all know that it is important to eat well, exercise regularly and clock up enough hours of sleep. Yet many of us find it difficult to get the recommended 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily, eat enough fruit and vegetables, avoid unhealthy fried food or sugary drinks, and get sufficient sleep.

It is extremely difficult to break a bad habit - just ask any smoker. As a result, many suffer from chronic ailments, such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, by the time they hit their 50s.

So it is great to hear NurtureSG's recommendations to inculcate good habits in children, starting with pre-schoolers. Kids love to play, and if some games are played outdoors, all the better. With physical education classes in school, followed by national service for boys, exercise should become part of their routines.

But eating well and getting enough sleep might be harder to achieve. This is especially if the message they are getting at school is not reinforced at home. If lunch at school is healthy but dinner at home is not, the children will get conflicting messages. Parents who drink Coke and indulge in fried chicken wings would have difficulty convincing their children to do otherwise. Similarly, early school start times, coupled with the amount of homework, do not give the children much free time. So they shortchange themselves on sleep. Again, parental input is critical.

Habits developed at a young age tend to last for a lifetime. It is heartening that schools are trying to teach children these good habits.

The Health Promotion Board's plan to also educate parents is equally important. A buy-in from them will ensure the efforts have a higher chance of success.

But even if this doesn't happen, NurtureSG's efforts will go a long way towards keeping future generations healthier, as they will grow up knowing what to do.

The best outcome would be if children bring home good habits they pick up at school and influence their families - adults included - to lead healthier lives.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline 'Healthy habits last a lifetime'. Print Edition | Subscribe