Monday, September 30, 2019


The other day I dug up my favourite pair of jeans from the cupboard. It has been a number of years since I last wore them. To my horror, I had to struggle to zip up. What used to be a snug fit was now a tight fit. I knew I was in trouble when the bathroom scales read 56.4 kg.

My ideal weight is 50kg-52 kg. Anything beyond that means I haven't been physically active enough. Or overeating especially on carbs. Since the surgery to remove a lump in my right thigh, I have been guilty of easing off somewhat on my daily exercise regime. I am still nursing a swollen knee from fluid retention.

I do a lot of walking as I don't drive and rely mostly on public transport to get around. But when I am at home and sitting down at the computer, I tend to get carried away. I have to set the kitchen timer to buzz after an hour to remind myself it's time to get up, stretch and do something else before getting back to work at my computer.

We must admit that many of our daily activities involve sitting down, often for hours on end: working at the pc, reading, watching TV, listening to music, attending meetings/seminars, chatting with friends over tea or meals, sittting in buses, trains, even waiting...  Before we know it, we are several kilos heavier than we would like to be.

Thanks to years of going to the gym, running and yoga exercises back in the 1980s and 90s, I have managed to keep obesity at bay. I was a member of Fitness International in the 1980s before I switched to Fitness First. In total I was a gym regular for close to 15 years. I often put in hours on the treadmill and was crazy about aerobics. My daughter Belle even drew a caricature of me as a fitness fanatic on my t-shirt. I am glad I laid a foundation of regular exercise in my younger days. Never too early (or too late) to build up muscle strength, cardio fitness and joint flexibility. But it is a constant challenge to maintain a healthy weight.

I have always enjoyed running, but not competitive running, as I do not want to stress myself out too much with regular training, dieting and the constant need to improve on my best time. The runs I sign up for are usually short ones between 5km to 8km. As age starts creeping up on me, I have opted more for walkathons and jogging.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Nothing like brisk walking at our age to shed off those extra kilos, and give the heart a good workout at the same time. The good doctor says we should aim for 10,000 steps a day. Some days I fall short. But I tell myself a few thousand steps is better than a few hundred. Brisk walking is the simplest, cheapest and easiest exercise. Some women can spend hours walking the floors in the mall. However, that does not constitute brisk walking. It doesn't do anything for your heart. Nordic walking is arguably the best type of walking as it gives you a total body workout with the aid of the poles.
Ministry of Health, Malaysia
Exercising is one way to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases and cancers that plague older people. If you loathe going to the gym, and don't fancy jogging, hiking or playing tennis, I highly recommend investing in a set of stretch bands that are colour-coded for different levels of resistance. A complete set costs around RM50 or more depending on the quality of the bands.

If you are the type that abhor the exercises mentioned above, you can do gardening, fixing things around the house, or helping with the housework. Just don't be sedentary. Move those muscles and flex those joints. Muscle loss leads to frailty in old age, and stiff joints limit movement. That is something all of us want to avoid.

(Above): A comparison of three healthy plates. They have a lot in common. Sensible advice about making healthy choices. But knowing is one thing, applying is another. A healthier choice of nasi lemak, for example, is to have brown rice instead of the traditional white rice cooked in coconut milk, and add more kangkong or more slices of cucumber. As far as I know, the Ministry of Health has yet to promote this.

What we eat is as important as exercise. There are 101 diets out there, from the vegan diet to the keto diet and intermittent fasting as well. I have not tried any of them, but based on what I have learned from reading up on the diet of centenarians, almost all share similarities in that they eat in moderation, are vegetarians, and favour whole foods to processed foods. Sounds simple, but could be a tough act for most to follow. By the way, none of these centenarians are obese or even overweight, and they are all still active. It's also very important to cut down on our salt and sugar intake, especially the latter. When I see the long queues of young people at bubble tea outlets, I wonder if they are aware that consuming such sweet drinks will ultimately affect their health, resulting in obesity and diabetes.

Like most mothers and grandmothers, I hate to see waste but I also hate to see my waist expanding. I have a bad habit of finishing off any leftovers on my grandchildren's plates or leftovers in the pantry and fridge.The kilos have started to pile up, and the unwanted flab here and there doesn't make for a pleasant sight. Trying on clothes in the fitting room and seeing the reflection in the mirror is a reality check and a wake-up call.

It's a constant struggle to maintain good health. But we owe it to ourselves and our families to take responsibility for our health, to be aware of what is good for us, and what is not. I am sure none of us want to spend our retirement years struggling with pain and hefty medical bills.

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