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    Time to get moving, teens told


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    Experts Warn: Adults and Society Responsible for Unhealthy Sedentary Lifestyles

    PETALING JAYA: It’s time to get moving! That’s the urgent message that Malaysians need to take to heart, especially in light of recent news that four out of five teenagers in the country have a “sedentary lifestyle.” Experts warn that this lack of physical activity is putting their health at risk, and immediate action is needed to encourage teens to be more active. However, experts also point out that the responsibility to change doesn’t solely rest on adolescents’ shoulders. Adults are also guilty of leading unhealthy lifestyles, as evidenced by Malaysia’s alarming ranking as the third most smartphone-addicted nation in a recent survey.

    The survey, conducted by McGill University in Canada, interviewed 33,831 individuals aged between 15 and 35 from 24 countries. The findings, based on data from 2014 to 2020, highlight Malaysia’s addiction to smartphones and the internet. While it’s easy to blame social media and technology for teenagers’ physical inactivity, consultant pediatrician Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS stresses that the real issue lies with adults and society as a whole.

    Dr Amar-Singh criticizes the lack of outdoor play-friendly areas in cities, despite 75% of Malaysia’s population living in urban areas. He points out, “We have extremely few parks and safe play areas for teenagers in all our cities. Our roads are unsafe for them to walk and cycle, and there are limited outdoor team activities.” Additionally, the urban heat island effect, caused by increased urbanization, loss of vegetation, and excessive use of cars and air conditioning, makes outdoor activities less comfortable.

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    Safety concerns also prevent parents from allowing their children to play outdoors. A study by the Perak Clinical Research Centre revealed that 66% of playtime for children is spent indoors, primarily due to safety reasons. Dr Amar-Singh emphasizes that most adults are also sedentary and consumed with screens and social media, failing to prioritize outdoor family activities that promote physical activity.

    The consequences of an inactive and sedentary lifestyle are dire for teenagers. Dr Amar-Singh emphasizes the higher risk of weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, physical activity not only stimulates the body but also the brain, enhancing memory, attention, creativity, emotional regulation, and social interaction capacities.

    It’s high time for adults to lead by example and change their own habits by reducing screen time and social media addictions. The government also needs to play its part by providing infrastructure that encourages mobility. City councils should prioritize green spaces and recreational areas, reduce vehicle usage, and invest in urban mobility options like electric bus rapid transit, walking, and cycling.

    Public health expert Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia highlights that physical inactivity affects all age groups, including adolescents, adults, and the elderly. She notes that the pandemic lockdowns further accelerated adolescents’ addiction to social media and gadgets, leading to musculoskeletal problems, impaired vision, reduced concentration, mental health issues, and obesity.

    Prof Sharifa Ezat warns that obesity in adolescence can lead to impaired glucose tolerance, increasing the risk of developing full-blown diabetes at a young age. To combat this issue, parents and the community must lead by example and prioritize physical activity and health literacy. Schools also play a crucial role, and the government should equip them with sufficient sports equipment to promote physical activity among schoolchildren.

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    The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022 reveals alarming trends among Malaysian adolescents aged 13 to 17. The survey exposes rising rates of obesity, physical inactivity, sedentary behavior, poor dietary choices, and excessive consumption of carbonated soft drinks and fast food. Shockingly, four out of five adolescents are physically inactive, with two out of three leading predominantly sedentary lives. Additionally, four out of five adolescents do not consume adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, further exacerbating the health risks they face.

    It’s time to address the issue holistically and create a society that prioritizes and encourages physical activity among all age groups. The well-being of Malaysians, especially teenagers, is at stake, and urgent action is needed to reverse these worrying trends.

    Credit: The Star : News Feed

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