Staying Healthy Post-Pandemic

By Wild Ginger

Staying Healthy Post-Pandemic

February 10th, 2022 at 6:29 am

Aristotle the legendary Greek philosopher said, “Man is by nature a social animal”. All Malaysians from all walks of are affected by the pandemic in one way or another.


Gardenia’s ‘Wellness Begins at Home’ Survey conducted in collaboration with Cilisos Media, found that although some Malaysians initially enjoyed staying home during the first MCO, more than 30% of respondents become increasingly stressed as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months. Furthermore, 30% of respondents said they went as long as two weeks without stepping out of their homes during the MCO. This had a corresponding negative effect on personal hygiene and eating habits:

  • 11.8% admitted to not showering, changing their clothes or even brush their teeth for up to three days in a row;
  • 63% said that they ate whenever they felt like it, 26% ate more, 15.9% stress ate and 37% gained weight during the MCO;
  • 74.1% of people with family that ate whenever they felt like it indicating a ripple effect.


While we ready ourselves to reset our routines post-pandemic, it’s the perfect time to make some positive changes and make new resolutions with regards to our health and wellness. Let’s look at the key factors: diet, exercise, and lifestyle.


Diet – We are what we eat

It is common knowledge that Malaysia has the highest prevalence of obesity among adults in South-East Asia. In the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey, 50.1% of our adult population was reported to be overweight or obese.


According to the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) by the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH), the prevalence rate of diabetes in adults has increased in Malaysia from 13.4 per cent in 2015 to 18.3 per cent in 2019. Nearly one in every five Malaysians suffers from diabetes! The number of prediabetes cases has also jumped from 8.8 per cent in 2015 to 23.6 per cent in 2019. Which means that over 7.5 million more Malaysians are at risk of developing
diabetes in the near future.


We’ve all heard of the food pyramid. It’s basically a guide to daily food intake. But did you know that it was revised in 2020 to reflect changes in our food intake status and patterns? The review also took into account the increase in diet-related non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension, as well as the latest nutrient intake recommendation.


The new food pyramid, published on the Ministry of Health Malaysia’s official Nutrition Division portal:

  1. advocates eating two servings of fruit and more than three servings of vegetables per day, and only three to five servings of carbohydrates;
  2. and recommends drinking six to eight glasses of water a day. Assuming one glass is 250ml, this means we should be drinking between 1.5 litres to 2 litres per day.

A mere 8.6% of the Gardenia ‘Wellness Begins at Home’ Survey respondents said that they ate a balanced diet during MCO.


Exercise – No pain, no gain

Studies by renowned universities have found that walking just 20 minutes a day can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 30%, and walking 30 minutes every day can increase cardio- vascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. It can also reduce risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some cancers.


Though this may not come as a surprise, exercise is good for both physical and mental health. One would think that with more time on our hands during MCO and lockdown, Malaysians would have spent more time exercising. Yet this was not the case. 59.5% of Gardenia’s ‘Wellness Begins at Home’ Survey respondents admitted that they didn’t work out during MCO.


There are always a lot of reasons to ditch exercise, like no time, no proper equipment or gyms were closed. But truth be told, walking and stretching are the best forms of exercise, anyone can do them and they’re pretty much free.


But there is a bright spot; although less Malaysians worked out during the MCO, those who did exercise, did so more frequently, recording a 14.5% increase in exercise frequency, or 23 additional workouts sessions over the period of one year. Bravo!!


Self-care (a.k.a. ‘Me time’)

A couple of the phrases we heard during the pandemic were, ‘cabin fever’ and ‘pandemic fatigue’. We may still be experiencing these, and some ‘me time’ is just what we need. Self- care looks different for everyone. Some may enjoy yoga, a pampering session at a spa or nail salon. To others it’s dining with friends, or perhaps winding down with a book and a cuppa. It doesn’t matter what you do, all that matters is that you’re taking time for yourself.


This isn’t a one-off thing either. Carve out an hour of your day to practice self-care. This can take the form of meditating, gardening, scrolling through Twitter or even playing video games, if that’s what helps relieve stress. Even lying down in bed daydreaming can do wonders for you!


Summary – All things in moderation

We know, we know. You’ve heard all this before. So why aren’t we practicing these simple steps to wellness? We all need to take better care of ourselves. The pandemic has brought to light a couple of scary truths about Malaysians. Firstly, a large number of Malaysians are unaware that they have underlying health issues. A lot of us are of the ‘ignorance is bliss’ school of thought. The NHMS 2019 survey found that 49 per cent of people with diabetes had never been examined or diagnosed with the chronic disease.


If we want to live our best life, we’re going to have to take better care of ourselves. This means building our own natural immunity, and this is done via diet, exercise and lifestyle. In fact, the diet and exercise relationship to fitness is, 70% diet and 30% workout. But, you may say, “Malaysia is a food paradise”. Yes, indeed it is, and if we want to continue enjoying this paradise, we’re going to have to take all the necessary steps and do all things in moderation.


Gardenia KL continues to stand in support of the nation as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. In conjunction with World Mental Health week 2021, findings from the Gardenia ‘Wellness Begins at Home’ Survey were discussed over a live forum hosted on @GardeniaKL’s Facebook with celebrity mental health activist and Patron of MIASA, Che Puan Sarimah Ibrahim; mental health activist and MIASA President, Anita Abu Bakar; and Gardenia KL, Corporate Affairs and Public Relations General Manager, Hazlinah Harun. The discussion covered the impact of the pandemic on Malaysians, tips for a healthier lifestyle and many more.


If you missed it, don’t worry! You can still watch the discussion on Gardenia KL’s Facebook page.

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