Half of the Hongkongers interviewed as part of a recent survey by the University of Hong Kong can be classified as physically inactive according to international standards, a status that directly affects both their physical and mental health. With an ageing population and an increasing trend of long-term illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, Lam Tai-hing, the principal investigator for the survey by HKU’s Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, warned that Hongkongers’ sedentary lifestyle and high salt and sugar intake would need to change. “Some people think that using a Sunday to do four to five hours of vigorous exercise can make up for six days of sedentary sitting,” Lam said. “That exercise, while good, does not cancel out the damages done by inactivity for the rest of the week.” Lam suggested “zero-time exercise”, in which people make use of their sitting and standing time to do little movements such as “air bicycle” or stretching exercises to break up long stretches of not moving. The survey also showed that those respondents who reported they did more exercise tended to be happier. “We need to see exercise in a broader way. It is good for the individual, but also increases family happiness,” Lam said. Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man, who was present at the simultaneous launch of a two-year physical activity regime programme, said the government placed emphasis and importance in preventive measures in order to minimise long-term illnesses.