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Are Malaysians Really Lazy?

by Nashata K.

Okay, so we’ve recently read that study conducted by a group of Stanford University scientists. Malaysia was rated “third laziest country” – just slightly above Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

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About the study

Researchers looked at how many steps 700,000 people from around the globe took, using 68 million days’ worth of information to break down minute-by-minute findings. Hong Kong came out on top, with an average of 6880 per day, while it was Indonesia at the bottom, with 3513.

I’m not one to get fired up when Malaysia is a target for negative remarks or content, just for the sake of patriotism. Facts are facts, right? It didn’t spark any initial rage but it does bother me a tad that we’re being generalised as being a ‘lazy’ population when there are a tonne of things worth considering.

# 1: Who’s calling who lazy?

Here are the findings: Researchers found that countries with lower obesity walked similar amounts every day and countries with high obesity had large gaps between their walking patterns. They call this “activity inequality”.

There is nothing in the study that even mentions that word ‘lazy’. The research was done to focus on obesity – not laziness.

Why are more and more sites quoting their countrymen as ‘lazy’?

True, we’re quite well known for being one of the top countries with the highest rates for obesity, and we did come out third from the bottom out of 111 countries that were studied. It’s one thing to be called an obese-ridden country but how does one connect the dots between numbers of steps taken in a day to laziness?

# 2: An app to keep track?

The study, published in the journal Nature and conducted by Stanford University in the USA, used data collated from people who were using a smartphone app which allows users to record their daily activity, food, sleep and heart rate.

To curb the global pandemic of physical inactivity, there has to be some kind of large-scale and dependable form of measurement. This study used what is called the Argus app.

I haven’t been able to find much information online about the research methodology or the way in which their data was computed, let alone how many anonymous Malaysians are actually active users of this app but here’s an afterthought – how many Malaysians actually use this app to begin with, like, religiously? I ask because I know some serious walkers, who keep serious tabs on their calories and daily steps, but don’t even use such an application.

# 3: If we were more pedestrian friendly, why not?

Any Malaysian living and working in the city would agree that even the most basic thing like crossing the roads can be tricky, if not dangerous.

Sure, some places and if we’re lucky, would be equipped with pedestrian lights or that jambatan thingy. Malaysia is simply not a pedestrian friendly country. Not like some European countries out there – equipped with smancy bridges, walkways, and clear signage. Yes, I take it with a pinch of salt because what’s there not be jealous about? Wouldn’t we all love to ditch being stuck in terrible 6pm jams?

# 4: Is it really convenient after all?

Okay – we don’t all live close to where we work, right? Life is pretty straight forward here. Assuming you’re in your 20s and 30s and hold an average job in in the city; chances are you live in a taman or suburb, you own at least one car (or a motorcycle), or you completely depend on the LRT or MRT (or your parents for transport). Maybe if our employers gave us a grace period or if organisations offered leeway or came up with a new policy – being allowed to be late due to distance travelled via foot?

# 5: The weather – Need I say more?

Pretty self-explanatory. If this isn’t the mother of all reasons, I don’t know what is. There was a point in time where late afternoon walks were a true blessing. Now it’s impossible to even be in a vehicle after 12pm. Take it from someone whose AC is busted and driving without any tint. It’s super ironic how I no longer frantically seek shelter when it starts to rain. Instead, I literally scamper when it’s hot out, even if its just for a few brief moments. And no, not the puteri lilin kind.

Fact: It’s wayyy too hot and humid to be jaywalking or exercising just anytime in Malaysia.

Even trek enthusiasts or joggers prefer shady areas like Bukit Gasing or will just wait till after 5pm. Tourists or expats will tell you the same thing.

The study did shed light on a lot of things and the findings can help nations bridge gaps and understand more about health related issues such as obesity. Maybe us Malaysians can learn a thing or two too. Next time wear your Fitbit when you’re out shopping lah!

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