|The worldwide prevalence of obesity has doubled since1980. In
2008, 35% of adults older than 20 years of age were overweight .
Obesity has serious implications because it is associated with a twofold
risk in heart disease and diabetes and also increased incidence of
some cancers, upper respiratory problems, arthritis, and other health
problems. As a developing nation, Malaysia is not exempted from
this obesity phenomenon. The first national estimates of overweight
and obese adults were reported from the second National Health and
Morbidity Survey in 1996 (NHMS 2) as 20.7% and 5.8%, respectively
. A decade later, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among the
Malaysian adults rose to 29.1% and 14.0% respectively as reported in
the 2006 NHMS .
|Prevalence of obesity and its adverse consequences across different
age groups were also reported by various investigators in Malaysia [4-12]. The high prevalence of overweight and obesity in Malaysia was
associated with diabetes and adverse lipid and glucose metabolism
[4,10]. It has been reported that there was a high prevalence of
overweight and obesity in a selected public university and this was
attributed to psychosocial factors and working hours . It was also
interesting to note that the prevalence of overweight and obesity among
the medical students of a Malaysian private university was high .
|In the past decade, various steps have been taken to diminish this
scourge of obesity in Malaysia. Among the measures taken was the
‘10,000 steps a day’ campaign in 2009 by the Malaysian Ministry of
Health. ‘My Health’ programme was also launched by the Malaysian
Health Promotion Board in an effort to increase optimal nutrition via
promoting healthy food choices and weight reduction. The Malaysian
Ministry of Education also initiated the ‘1S 1S’ (One student, One
Sports) programme with the objective of getting more school children
becoming more physically active. All these programmes have good
intentions and they are supposed to reduce the prevalence of obesity in
Malaysia. However, the Malaysian Minister of Health, Datuk Seri Liow
Tiong Lai has voiced out his concern that Malaysia was the fattest nation
among the South East Asian countries in 2013 . Thus, it is clear
that the previous efforts or strategies planned to overcome the obesity
problem among the Malaysian adults have not been too successful.
|Likewise, there has been a growing trend of obesity among the
Malaysian children and one of the contributing factors is that they do
not have enough physical activity in their daily lives and in the school
setting. Children have been deprived of regular physical activity in their
daily lives and Wafa et al. (2011) reported that there were some beneficial
effects of lifestyle intervention among the obese children in Malaysia
. Physical activity during physical education classes was also nonexistent
or at its minimum level in many schools as physical education
is a non-prioritised subject in school and not adequately supervised and
monitored [14,15]. Besides that, there have been recommendations by
various investigators in Malaysia that level of physical activity among
its adult and younger population should be increased as a measure to
curb the obesity epidemic [5-7,10-12,16]. Thus, there is strong evidence
that there is a lack of regular physical activity among the Malaysian
population. In my opinion, brisk walking is an underestimated and
underused modality to counteract the onslaught of the obesity in
Malaysia and may be other parts of the world. Nevertheless, brisk
walking as a means to overcome obesity is not something new. It has been proposed as a modality for the overweight and obese individuals
by previous researchers [17-21].
|Benefits of brisk walking include positive changes to body
composition, body weight, lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity
[17-21]. Other benefits of brisk walking include reducing stress and
depression levels, enhancing bone health, and increasing longevity.
Walking is an ideal way for the overweight and obese individuals to
begin an exercise programme since it can be performed with minimal
instruction or equipment and is low in cost. Moreover, there is no
requirement for a pedometer to count your steps. Hence, brisk walking
is an appropriate modality for obese people of all ages except for the
overly obese (BMI > 40.0) and individuals with chronic knee pain.
|Since previous measures to curb the rise of obesity in Malaysia have
not been too successful, the promotion of brisk walking in Malaysia
ought to be given due consideration. Aggressive public health campaigns
from both the government and non-government organisations will be
much needed to make brisk walking a life-changing habit among the
overweight and obese population in Malaysia. It has never been easy
to persuade sedentary individuals to embark on something out of
their comfort zone, i.e. performing physical activity on a regular basis.
However, I do believe that with concerted effort from the government,
non-government agencies and particularly, the affected individual
themselves, brisk walking (30 minutes per day, 3 times a week),
may lead to a drastic decline in the statistics of overweight and obese
Malaysians in the not too distant future.
- World Health Organization (2014) Obesity: Situation and trends.
- Lim TO, Ding LM, Zaki M, Suleiman AB, Fatimah S, et al. (2000) Distribution of body weight, height and body mass index in a national sample of Malaysian adults. Med J Malaysia 55: 108-128.
- Omar MZS, Daud NA, Nudin SSH (2006)The Third National Health and Morbidity Survey: Physical Activity. Ministry of Health.
- Mohamad WB, Mokhtar N, Mafauzy M, Mustaffa BE, Musalmah M (1996) Prevalance of obesity and overweight in northeastern peninsular Malaysia and their relationship with cardiovascular risk factors. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 27: 339-342.
- Ismail MN, Chee SS, Nawawi H, Yusoff K, Lim TO, et al. (2002) Obesity in Malaysia. Obes Rev 3: 203-208.
- Rampal L, Rampal S, Khor GL, Zain AM, Ooyub SB, et al. (2007) A national study on the prevalence of obesity among 16,127 Malaysians. Asia Pac J ClinNutr 16: 561-566.
- Kee CC Jr, Jamaiyah H, Noor Safiza MN, Khor GL, Suzana S, et al. (2008) Abdominal Obesity in Malaysian Adults: National Health and Morbidity Survey III (NHMS III, 2006). Malays J Nutr 14: 125-135.
- Cheong SM, Kandiah M, Chinna K, Chan YM, Saad HA (2010) Prevalence of obesity and factors associated with it in a worksite setting in Malaysia. J Community Health 35: 698-705.
- Khambalia AZ, Seen LS (2010) Trends in overweight and obese adults in Malaysia (1996-2009): a systematic review. Obes Rev 11: 403-412.
- Mohamud WN, Musa KI, Khir AS, Ismail AA, Ismail IS, et al. (2011) Prevalence of overweight and obesity among adult Malaysians: an update. Asia Pac J ClinNutr 20: 35-41.
- Wafa SW, Talib RA, Hamzaid NH, McColl JH, Rajikan R, et al. (2011) Randomized controlled trial of a good practice approach to treatment of childhood obesity in Malaysia: Malaysian Childhood Obesity Treatment Trial (MASCOT). Int J PediatrObes 6: e62-69.
- Gopalakrishnan S, Ganeshkumar P, Prakash MV, Christopher, Amalraj V (2012) Prevalence of overweight/obesity among the medical students, Malaysia. Med J Malaysia 67: 442-444.
- Cheng N (2013) Malaysia is now the fattest country in SE Asia, says Liow.
- Aboshkair KA, Amri SB, Yee KL, Sama BBA (2012) Assessment of implementation level of physical education in Selangor secondary schools, Malaysia. Wulfenia Journal 19:108-124.
- Wee EH (2013) Contemporary Issues in the Teaching of PE in Malaysia. Journal of Physical Activity Sports and Exercise 1:17-20.
- Sidik SM, Ahmad R (2004) Childhood obesity: contributing factors, consequences and intervention. Malays J Nutr 10: 13-22.
- Morabia A , Costanza MC (2004) Does walking 15 minutes per day keep the obesity epidemic away? Simulation of the efficacy of a populationwide campaign. Am J Public Health 94: 437-440.
- Leon AS, Conrad J, Hunninghake DB, Serfass R (1979) Effects of a vigorous walking program on body composition, and carbohydrate and lipid metabolism of obese young men. Am J ClinNutr 32: 1776-1787.
- Ford P, Swaine I (2012) Continuous versus accumulated brisk walking in children aged 8-11 years. Eur J Sport Sci 12: 89- 95
- Gwinup G (1975) Effect of exercise alone on the weight of obese women. Arch Intern Med 135: 676-680.
- Hills AP, Byrne NM, Wearing S, Armstrong T (2006) Validation of the intensity of walking for pleasure in obese adults. Prev Med 42: 47-50.