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Southeast Asia Tackles Obesity with Stair Climbing and Cutting Calories

Update Date: Jun 09, 2014 10:58 AM EDT
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Obesity is a worldwide epidemic that affects people of all ages. Since obesity can increase one's risk of developing numerous other health conditions, losing weight and maintaining it is vital. In Southeast Asia, many nations have started taken several measures to prevent obesity from becoming a widespread disease. These countries have turned to the traditional methods of stair climbing and cutting calories.

"There's some intuition that once obesity gets above a certain share of a population, it becomes more of a norm and then businesses and infrastructure accommodate the greater appetite, sucking in more people into that lifestyle," Zee Yoong Kang, chief executive of Singapore's Health Promotion Board, said reported by Reuters.

Currently, nations from Southeast Asia have some of the world's lowest obesity rates. However, as people's incomes and access to fatty, Western fast foods increase, the likelihood that they will start to lead sedentary lifestyles and gain weight will also unfortunately increase as well. In order to prevent this trend from happening, countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have created many anti-obesity programs.

In Singapore, one of the main tactics is cutting calories by replacing foods with better options. For example, in childcare centers, white rice is being replaced by its healthier alternative, brown rice. In public areas, signs were created to encourage people to take the stairs as opposed to the elevators or escalators. The government is also working with other organizations to promote healthy eating alongside an active lifestyle.

"Nutrition has to go hand-in-hand with exercise. Drastic changes will backfire," said Sean Chin, a trainer from Singapore who went from having 24 percent body fat to just nine percent. "Appreciate healthy food and your body will thank you in its own way."

In Malaysia, health officials are working to increase public awareness about obesity in order to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCD), such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The country has started the "Nutrition Month Malaysia" initiative, which included this year's "Eat right, move more: Fight Obesity" theme.

"A population with a high burden of NCDs ... will affect productivity and ultimately negatively impact our economic development," said Dr. Chong Chee Kheong, director of disease control at the Ministry of Health in Malaysia.

Thailand has taken a more drastic approach by prohibiting the sales of carbonated soft drinks in state schools. The Thai Health Promotion Foundation (THPF) is planning on adding a tax on sweet foods or foods high in calories.

"I think every government is at various stages of realization that prevention is better than cure," commented Simon Flint, the Asia CEO of gym chain operator Fitness First.

By taking prevention measures, these nations hope to reduce healthcare costs that arise from obesity and the diseases that develop due to obesity.

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