Lifestyle change carries weight

They call it middle-age spread, but weight gain starts far earlier than that. According to the Health Promotion Board's latest data, one in 10 Singaporean children is already overweight by age five.

The problem does not stop there. People start gaining weight when they enter the workforce.

By the time they are in their 30s, 42 per cent of men are overweight or obese, as are 28 per cent of women. In fact, men gain 4kg in the first decade after they start working.

In the US, where at least four in 10 people are obese, the condition has been called an epidemic.

Obesity rates have not quite reached such proportions in Singapore yet. But experts warn that the tipping point could be nearer than we think.

If nothing is done, it will take us just seven years to reach obesity rates of 15 per cent - the point at which the proportion of obese people in the United States increased sharply.

People who are obese run a higher risk of developing medical problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Currently, obesity rates in Singapore stand at around 11 per cent.

How did we get to this state? The general consensus is that we have been eating too much and exercising too little.

However, pinpointing these issues is the easy part; changing behaviour is much tougher.

Parents complain that they cannot get their children to spend a weekend playing games outdoors because they are constantly glued to a computer screen.

Office workers complain of long working hours that sap them of the time and energy needed to sustain a regular exercise routine.

In many cases, these problems involve a multitude of factors and are not easy to resolve, no matter what government schemes are devised to push people onto the path of healthy living.

Even so, there is always a little more that each person can do. The best motivation is to remember that it is one's own health at stake, and develop the discipline to break any unhealthy habits.

Linette Lai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2017, with the headline 'Lifestyle change carries weight'. Print Edition | Subscribe