Prevalence of sedentary behaviour ‘relatively high’ in Malaysia

This is why it is important to adjust one’s lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of NCDs

by V SANKARA SUBRAMANIAM/ pic by BERNAMA

DO YOU sit for long hours all day? If the answer is yes, then you are at risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Numerous studies have shown that sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity can increase the risk of developing NCDs, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes.

According to NCD global activist Datuk Seri Jessy Lai, the burden of NCDs on health systems in Malaysia is substantial as such disorders contribute to an estimated 73% of total inpatient deaths in government hospitals.

“Physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour are among the major risk factors for NCDs,” she told Bernama.

Citing the findings of a 2016 study published by San Francisco, US-based PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal, Lai said obesity and NCD cases linked to physical inactivity have increased dramatically in Malaysia over the past 20 years.

“It (study) said Malaysia has been identified as one of the least physically active countries in the world with over 60% of adults being essentially sedentary.

“These findings suggest that the prevalence of sedentary behaviour in Malaysia is reasonably high,” she added.

Expert says people should know that physical exercise has the potential to be an alternative remedy to conventional medicine in preventing NCDs

Sedentary Lifestyle

Lai, who is an entrepreneur and runs seven exercise clinics nationwide, also quoted the findings of a 2016 study published by the Malaysian Journal of Public Health Medicine (MJPHM) stating that adults in Malaysia spent 41% of the day in a sitting position.

“The figures showed that the prevalence of sedentary behaviour in Malaysia is relatively high, which is why it is important to adjust one’s lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of NCDs,” she said.

According to MJPHM, which is the official journal of the Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association, sedentary behaviour is characterised by minimal movement and a very low level of energy expenditure.

It said sedentary behaviour is, in fact, distinct from being physically inactive because the former means sitting or lying down for long periods, while the latter means not doing enough physical activity.

In a paper titled “Fighting Global NCDs” which Lai presented at the Summit of Leaders 2019 on Dec 17 at Oxford Town Hall in the UK that was organised by Europe Business Assembly, she had proposed that housing developers in Malaysia consider incorporating exercise clinics in their projects to encourage behavioural change and reduce the risk of developing NCDs.

Lai says obesity and NCD cases linked to physical inactivity have increased dramatically in Malaysia over the past 20 years

Importance of Exercising

Exercise medicine expert Dr Lee Chee Pheng, meanwhile, said there is no reason for people to be sedentary as there are numerous mobile phone applications and gadgets like smartwatches that can monitor physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

“People should know that physical exercise has the potential to be an alternative remedy to conventional medicine in preventing NCDs. Exercise has proven to produce many positive changes to the human body if executed in the right manner.

“Exercise has been over-generalised. The word is widely used with the wrong definition and perception. Exercise is voluntary organised movements within a dedicated time at the right dosage. Within this context, everyone who exercises will get results,” he said.

He also said Malaysia will host the fourth World Conference on Exercise Medicine in Kuala Lumpur this year from June 19-21.

About 800 delegates from 23 countries are expected to participate in the conference, which is organised by, among others, MS New Symphony Exercise Clinic and Asia College of Exercise and Sports Medicine and co-hosted by the Ministry of Health Malaysia.

Obesity Issues

Dr Kannappan Palaniappan, a consultant obstetrician, gynaecologist and fertility specialist at Sunway Medical Centre, said sedentary behaviour can lead to obesity and overweight issues.

“This increases the risk of diabetes and high cholesterol which can result in heart disease and stroke. Inactive patients also have a higher incidence of hypertension,” he said.

The specialist said other medical disorders resulting from sedentary behaviour include blood clot formation in the leg called deep vein thrombosis, as well as fatty liver disease and metabolic disorder.

“For both men and women, it (sedentary behaviour) can also lead to infertility. Women will find themselves having infrequent menses as a result of not ovulating due to excess weight gain,” he said.

Sedentary women who become pregnant also face an increased risk of developing diabetes and hypertension, he added. — Bernama