Invest in Your Health: A Timely Message to the Younger Generation

Neglecting health in youth leads to a costly toll in later years. Medical bills mount, dreams of travel fade, and once-coveted indulgences lose their allure. A bungalow or mansion loses its lustre when stairs become insurmountable obstacles, and pain overshadows daily life. - POLA SINGH

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Pola Singh (right), and Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar Hassan, an 80-year-old former chairman of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) and New Straits Times Press (NSTP), exercise regularly at the TTDI Park. They cherish the fruits of their earlier investments in health. Now, they bask in tranquillity, leading lives brimming with fulfilment.

By Dr Pola Singh | Malaysia |

As we navigate the hustle of our working lives, we often prioritize financial security over our overall well-being. The mantra “health is wealth” can feel distant as we chase career goals and family obligations, neglecting the importance of regular exercise and proper nutrition.

In the frenzy of work and commitments, it’s easy to brush aside exercise, ignoring its vital role in sustaining a fulfilling life. Excuses abound, and sedentary habits become the norm, leading to a staggering statistic: only 10-20% of Malaysians exercise regularly.

Yet, as retirement beckons, perspectives shift. Regret sets in for those who realize too late the value of prioritizing health earlier in life. They find themselves constrained by health issues, unable to savour the pleasures they once envisioned.

I’ve witnessed seniors grateful for each day, longing for the vitality they once took for granted. If given the chance, they’d rewrite their past, dedicating ample time to activities that nourish the body and soul.

Neglecting health in youth leads to a costly toll in later years. Medical bills mount, dreams of travel fade, and once-coveted indulgences lose their allure. A bungalow or mansion loses its lustre when stairs become insurmountable obstacles, and pain overshadows daily life.

Besides exercising outdoors, leading a healthy lifestyle is paramount. Smoking is a no-no, and everything should be done in moderation. If you love to drink, do it moderately (cut it down over time); if you love to indulge in food, do not overeat. Reduce your intake of the sweet stuff such as lados, jelebi and barfi. Eat more chappatis and less rice.

Reading widely (and also writing), playing mind games such as chess, sudoku, crossword puzzles, etc., are essential to keeping your brain healthy. Socialize more often with your friends and classmates. These are all open secrets to a fulfilling life.

The repercussions extend beyond physical health. Isolation, stress, and depression creep in, tarnishing the golden years. Culinary delights and leisure pursuits lose their charm when health prohibits enjoyment.

The remedy lies in embracing a proactive approach to health early on. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and abstaining from harmful habits lay the foundation for a fulfilling life well into old age.

As Malaysians, our life expectancy may be on the rise, but true quality of life eludes many. Let us heed the call to prioritize health, ensuring that our golden years are truly golden. After all, in the journey of life, nothing is more valuable than the gift of good health.

Friends say that I stand as living proof that investing in health and leading a healthy lifestyle yields the richest dividends. Amidst the chaos of life, I have dedicated time to exercise and nourish my mind, now revelling in the joy of a vibrant existence while keeping the doctor at bay.

I will turn 75 this July.

Dr Pola Singh, who retired as Maritime Institute of Malaysia director-general in 2011, is also the author of ‘Uphill — The Journey of a Sikh-Chinese Kampung Boy’

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