Take the first step to good health

Shuyee Chen

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"I never thought that I would have anything to do with osteoporosis," said Ms Chan, an administrative staff member in her late thirties. Her doctor, however, thought her body mass index was low, which means she is underweight, and reminded her of the bone scan offered during CityU's Wellness March 2003. "My scan result suggested that I have a medium-to-high risk of getting osteoporosis."

The Wellness March bone-scanning session took place on 27-28 February, one of many health and fitness offerings in the annual programme, which kicked off this year on the 10 February and runs through April. "Jump-out and Revitalize" is the theme of Wellness March 2003, said Mr Roy Ngai, Senior Physical Education Officer in Student Development Services (SDS). "As our poster shows, the idea is to jump out of our round-the-clock schedule and let the beauty of life revitalize us." In pursuit of whole person development, Wellness March emphasizes physical health and fitness as well as mental health and personal growth, according to Mr Ngai, the event's organizer since 1997. "Our goal is to raise awareness of overall wellness on campus."

Osteoporosis has been seen as a natural deterioration of the human body due to aging, especially in females. "Now, with simple ultrasound scanning, it is possible for us to identify the problem before it gets serious," said Dr Angela Lau of the Young Chung-yee Health Centre. "With appropriate exercise and diet, the deterioration process will definitely slow down." The Health Centre launched the bone-scanning session during last year's Wellness March and, among the 146 participants, 20 were considered high risk and eight were diagnosed with the problem. This year, 154 people took the scan. Twenty three of them, including some men and young women, were considered high risk. Dealing with stress is another major theme of the Wellness March. This year, along with more than a dozen workshops on the subject, the Health Centre will feature "Mental Health Related to Stress Disorder and Anxiety," an exhibition running from 24 March to 6 April.

"Mental disorder is getting more common every year as stress levels increase in Hong Kong," said Dr Lau. "Almost one in five suffers from the condition." Symptoms include irritability, anxiety and depression and can often lead to such physical problems as chronic headaches, fatigue, stomach problems, insomnia and a general weakening of our immune system.

"The easiest treatment of mental disorder is to confide the problems to the people you trust," Dr Lau said. "In addition to family and friends, there are also counsellors and clinical psychiatrists who can provide professional help." There are also drugs available now to treat those who are seriously depressed because of an imbalance of brain hormones. "Just don't keep it to yourself," she added. People can also call the Professional Personal Consultation Service (PPCS) hotline* to talk to professionals over the phone or arrange a consultation to help sort out their problems, whether they're related to family, personal life or work, said Dr Lau. The service is provided by the Hong Kong Christian Service, an agency hired by CityU since 1998. All consultations are free of charge and strictly confidential. (*PPCS hotline: 2721-3939. For further information, please contact the Human Resources Office.)

Exercise is one of the best prescriptions for physical and mental health. "Regular exercise keeps people young and healthy. It has also been proven that exercise can stimulate the brain's release of the hormone endorphin, which helps induce a state of mental well-being. That can make you look at life in a much more positive way," said Mr Ngai.

To help people take the first step to good health, SDS added hiking to the Wellness March last year. "Walking is the easiest and best exercise for almost everyone. Walking in the countryside is relaxing and also excellent for your health," said Dr Zhou Nan, Head of the Department of Marketing. Dr Zhou, along with Mr Richard Mitchell, Senior Lectures in the Division of Language Studies, has been the route leader of the Wellness March Fitness Walking programme in Lion Rock Hill since last year.

"It's all about making the first step," said Mr Ngai. "Once you've done that, you won't want to stop for the rest of your life."

So, are you ready?

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