Warning as study shows one in five are obese

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 July, 2011, 12:00am


Nearly one in five Hongkongers are obese, thanks to a unhealthy lifestyle of heavy snacking, too little sleep and no exercise.

A study by the Hong Kong Baptist University shows the 25-39 age group is most at risk from weight-related problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, with more than 60 per cent of them exercising less than once a week.

'Hong Kong may be in the top 10 cities with the longest life-expectancy, but don't be surprised if it loses that ranking soon,' Baptist University Professor Frank Fu Hoo-kin, who headed the study, warned.

Fu also said citizens spend money on medicinal products and medical help rather than living healthily.

He said: 'We should not rely on medicine and science to prolong life, but should focus on living a healthy lifestyle. What's the use of living longer if you cannot enjoy life?'

The study involved interviews with more than 3,000 residents between the ages of five and 74. They were questioned about their exercising, eating and sleeping habits, and were asked for their body and weight measurements and yearly expenditure on sport and medical fees.

Of those questioned, 19.9 per cent were found to have 'abdominal obesity', measured by the ratio of the waist to body height. A total of 17.5 per cent were overweight.

Abdominal obesity gets more serious with age, with over 40 per cent of men and over 30 per cent of women above the age of 60 being overweight around the middle.

More men are overweight across the ages, and also smoke and drink more, while women and children eat more snacks.

The study also found that those with blue-collar jobs have worse health than those with white-collar jobs, probably due to bad habits, stress and low pay.

Fu said: 'Those working [blue- collar jobs] in Hong Kong use up their energy, but it's not 'exercising'. It's too stressful.

'Plus, their toil may still not be enough to provide a decent living.'

Fu recommended 'exercise two to three times for at least 20 minutes per week, eating three meals regularly; taking breakfast daily and sleeping more'.

He added: 'There is no single answer. But we'd better start now.'

Lack of sleep is also a major problem, said the study.

Fu's fellow researcher, Professor Chung Pak-kwong, said: 'We all need at least six hours of good-quality sleep, because it will not only give us strength for work in the day, but also regulate our bodies.'

He said power naps of around 20 to 30 minutes are also beneficial to health.

Speaking of the 25 to 39 age group, Chung said: 'You may think you're okay. People around your age may recuperate fast now, but it will damage you in the long run.

'It's better to take an hour-and-a- half out each week to exercise, to eat and sleep regularly.

'Think of it as 'health savings' - you are saving up for later.'