We have always aspired to better health so we can enjoy longer, happier lives with fewer ailments. But how we manage our health has evolved over the years.

Our idea of maintaining health is no longer just about visiting the doctor when we are ill and going on a diet when we can no longer fit into our jeans. In fact, many of us are taking a more proactive and holistic approach to our personal health and wellbeing.

During a recent interview, Datuk Koh Yaw Hui, Chief Executive Officer of Great Eastern Life, provided his perspective on the fitness movement that has gained momentum over the years.

Why is health and wellness increasingly important to consumers today?

There are a number of reasons. Firstly, healthcare costs have escalated. Most people would rather take preventive measures to maintain good health than to suffer the pain of illness and heavy medical expenses when illness strikes.

Secondly, we are more educated about the benefits of staying healthy and have many more options to improve our health than before.

Thirdly, innovation and technological advances in the way we track, monitor and measure our fitness have increased our ability to take personal ownership of our health and wellbeing.

How has Great Eastern Life responded to growing health consciousness among Malaysians?

In 2012, we made the decision to go beyond our role as an insurance company to become a LIFE company and actively support Malaysians in living healthier and better.

At the same time, we became the first insurance company in the region to launch an integrated health and wellness programme. The LIVE GREAT Programme provides wellness tools, health tips, mobile apps, workshops and events, as well as exclusive privileges to encourage people to make healthier choices in life and reward them for doing so.

Under the LIVE GREAT Programme, we have organised many events, including our signature LIVE GREAT Run, Great Eastern Viper Challenge and the Largest Zumba Fitness Party.

And of course, we have been the exclusive event partner of FitForLife for six consecutive years.

We have seen an increasing number of visitors at the health fair each year. The latest FitForLife KL in Mid Valley Exhibition Centre attracted 60,000 visitors, and many of them took part in our Great Eastern Life booth activities.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam having a go at the Live Great Wall Challenge during the launch of FitForLife KL 2017.

What did you want to achieve at this year’s FitForLife health fair?

This year, we wanted to show Malaysians that living great starts with a balanced and holistic approach to physical fitness, mental health, emotional wellbeing and financial wellness.

We also wanted to demonstrate to people new ways of staying fit, ways that they may not have considered before.

What were some of the highlights?

We had a VR Challenge with virtual reality workout games that many visitors were very keen to try out. It attracted children, grown-ups and senior citizens – age was no barrier.

The VR games were incredibly fun, worked up a sweat and provided many wonderful family bonding moments and the chance to win very attractive prizes.

We also installed an iceless skating rink that everyone enjoyed tremendously. There were a surprising number of very competent skaters and many parents took the opportunity to teach their children how to balance and glide across the rink. I’m sure it was an experience that everyone in the family would always remember.

Our LIVE GREAT Challenge saw 168 participants with six winners walking home with bragging rights and special prizes.

The LIVE GREAT Dodgeball generated a lot of buzz too, with tournaments for different categories throughout the three-day fair. What’s more, we invited the Malaysian Dodgeball team as well as the Women’s champion and Men’s 1st Runner-Up players in the World Dodgeball Championship 2016 to give tips to participants.

Did you glean any interesting insights from the health fair?

I was happy to see many visitors taking advantage of the various health screenings and express skin pampering sessions provided by our LIVE GREAT partners, Gleneagles Hospital and Kose.

Although there was a queue for the free services from morning till late, people did not mind the wait. Even men were queuing up for the complimentary skincare experience!

It affirmed to me that health and wellness do matter to Malaysians and our LIVE GREAT Programme offers a very timely response. Through the programme, members can enjoy exclusive health and wellness benefits at hundreds of LIVE GREAT partner outlets like GNC Live Well, AsterSpring Malaysia, Celebrity Fitness, and more.

What would you like to see more of in the health and wellness movement?

Financial wellness is an important aspect of health that people often place at the bottom of their list of priorities.

It not only affects your ability to obtain the healthcare you need but also impacts your mental and emotional wellbeing, especially when you are not financially secure.

I would like to see more young Malaysians take control of their financial health through better management of their savings, investments and protection.

An open-minded approach to discussing their needs and goals is all they need in taking the first step towards achieving their desired financial future.

What is your advice to Malaysians who want to improve their health?

It was not that long ago that I was less healthy than I should be, and heavier than I wanted to be. My wake-up call came when my daughters surprised me with a shirt as a birthday gift.

It was in the largest size they could find but I could not even button it up when I put it on. Their disappointment was heart-wrenching and I promised them I would fit into the shirt before my next birthday.

The LIVE GREAT Dodgeball generated a lot of buzz at the three-day FitForLife KL 2017.

As I progressed on my health journey, I learnt to eat more healthily and schedule my meetings in such a way that I have time to hit the gym daily.

And on weekends, I work out early in the morning while my family is still asleep so I can spend time with them when I get back from the gym.

I lost over 30kg that year, and have continued to maintain a healthy weight ever since. At 53 years old today, I am leaner, stronger and have better stamina than I did a decade ago.

Once you establish a health habit, it is not that difficult to stick to healthier food choices and a consistent fitness routine. But motivation is key.

On the surface, my health target was simply to fit into the shirt my daughters got me; on a deeper level, I wanted to be in the best health possible for my family so I could care for them as long as I can and celebrate life with them in every way.

Everyone has a unique reason for desiring better health. Find yours and it will help you stay on track, especially on those days when you’d rather sleep in rather than hit the gym.

Staying healthy and fit is not a fad or a trend. It’s a daily habit that will reward you from the moment you start.