Sustainable Health is a Necessity, Not an Option

By Dr Arvin Raj|21-07-2020 | 6 Min Read
If you fail to plank, you plank to fail.
Happiness is the highest form of health – The Dalai Lama


What does it mean to be healthy?

As defined by the World Health Organisation, health is ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.

In other words, ‘health’ is not a right we are given just by being alive. It is something we must earn.

Among Asian countries, Malaysia holds the record for the highest rate of obesity and overweight individuals with 64% of its male and 65% of its female population being either obese or overweight.

The prevalence of diabetes among adults aged 18 years and above has increased from 11.6% to 17.5% over a period of 9 years from 2006 to 2015. This is alarming as obesity is one of the leading causes of diabetes.

In today’s fast-paced world, we can become so absorbed with work and personal life commitments that other aspects of our lives are often neglected. More often than not health takes a back seat until an issue arises 


It’s also all too easy to fall into the trap of supplements, dietary fads, and gimmicky exercise regimes that offer quick results while requiring very little time invested. You can find hundreds of ‘X weeks to shredded abs’ programs or ‘fat burners’ that promise ‘excellent’ fat loss results with no effort.

Often, individuals who buy into these unsustainable ideas end up wasting time and money with the possibility of developing physical and mental health problems as well as body image issues.

The bigger question at hand is whether you want to lead a life that makes you physically fit while allowing you to maintain good mental health and work-life balance or just fit for a particular role or task while actual health is given lower priority?

Make sustainable health your choice

If your decision is the former, then sustainability is the answer. Sustainable health is the ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle for an extended period of time (in fact, why not for the rest of your life?).

I, for one, believe that for someone to succeed in life while maintaining physical fitness and health, a sustainable lifestyle has to be at the forefront. Extreme diets, supplement regimes, and short term exercise templates with no long term goal in mind are in no way sustainable for the foreseeable future.


Many people have been conditioned to associate health and being fit with simply having a good-looking body. While there is certainly a correlation between body fat levels, fitness parameters, and overall health, it’s not the be all end all. Many fitness models, celebrities and professional athletes lead extreme lifestyles to achieve the required fitness for the task at hand. But is this sustainable? Maybe we should take a look at some athletes or celebrities that have retired.

Habits like a sensible nutrition plan, regular exercise, and adequate sleep are essential ingredients to sustainable health, and therefore longevity and improved quality of life. A majority of the working population are often so fixated with their jobs that health becomes optional when it should never be.

Ironically, this eventually leads to ailments that sabotage their career growth and damage their finances (healthcare is not cheap). If you think about it, the root cause of all this is the same: unsustainable or poor life choices. Too much or too little of anything is never a good idea.

Approaching health and physical fitness in a sustainable manner allows an individual to have control over their future and this sense of empowerment is crucial in current times. 


Approaching health and physical fitness in a sustainable manner allows an individual to have control over their future and this sense of empowerment is crucial in current times. 



To elaborate further, when an individual is equipped with the knowledge of proper nutrition, he or she can enjoy eating like a normal person with certain sensible restrictions in place. He or she does not have to resort to extreme diets, pills, or ‘detox teas’ because they feel guilty for binge eating. Binging is usually a response to feeling deprived, something no sound nutrition plan should ever do.

This also applies to extreme exercise regimes that often leave a person fatigued instead of feeling good about their efforts. In fact, a good exercise program should leave you feeling euphoric

LIGHTWEIGHT BABAYY

As a trainer, these are the kinds of illogical exercise plans that usually drive people away from pursuing exercise. Knowledge is power but getting this knowledge from the right source is equally important.

Each individual is responsible for their decision. Making informed nutrition choices and deciding to exercise is your responsibility. As future leaders, your commitment to your health sets an example to those looking to emulate you in a positive manner. 

Not just for ourselves, but for others

Parents, for one, should remember that they are leaders of their children, and cultivating sustainable health begins at home. More often than not, childhood obesity stems from the home kitchen. Parents play a huge role in the fight against childhood obesity.

Teaching children the importance of a balanced diet and regular exercise is not enough just by saying it. Do it. Take a walk with them. Teach them about the food pyramid. Leading by example speaks volumes about a parent’s attitude.


This extends to working culture as well, as having workplaces that nurture these healthy practices not only ensures that employees are consistently in the best of health, but also promises better growth for the company or institution as everyone is at their most productive.

These practices also lead to better mental health, which in many ways is a vital factor in maintaining good overall health. 

So how can someone with no prior knowledge or experience get started?

First, it starts with the willingness to change. Your commitment to sustainable health is absolutely vital to take the first step forward. Before enrolling in any kind of exercise regime, getting a participation evaluation by a qualified doctor is essential. This will ensure that you can safely exercise and it will serve as a screening tool if you do have any undetected medical issues.

You may also want to consult a certified dietician if you would like to get dietary advice as a good nutritional plan is pivotal in becoming healthier. 

First, it starts with the willingness to change. Your commitment to sustainable health is absolutely vital to taking the first step



Once you are cleared to exercise, you may join the exercise of your choice. However, as a general guideline, I would strongly advise the general population to do both resistance and cardiovascular training (concurrent training) as this has a myriad of benefits than neither modality done by itself provides.

For those who are unsure of where to start, hiring a credible trainer may be warranted (preferably someone who is a certified trainer as that shows credibility). Along the way, read articles, follow fitness and nutrition professionals, and watch related videos, again from credible sources as this makes the learning process much more enjoyable. Join groups or have a circle of friends that share the same passion, as this will keep you encouraged.


Ultimately, sustainable health is your responsibility and, that being said, physical fitness and health should never be an option; it is a necessity, and a sustainable lifestyle checks all the boxes to attaining that.

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With 15 years of experience as a personal trainer/coach, 8 years as a doctor, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA) in 2018, Dr Arvin Raj Goonasegaran is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Sports Medicine at University Malaya. In his free time, he enjoys teaching at seminars, training clients, creating infographics and videos for both his Instagram and Youtube channel.
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