They say the world has shrunk—and Singapore, at its crossroads, has happily benefited through the years. With development, we’ve also seen better nutrition, more food choices and more comfortable lifestyles. All this means that far from shrinking, our residents are growing larger!

Obesity Rates in Singapore and Around the World

Woman measuring her height and weight to check her body mass index (BMI)

It's a trend that is becoming too obvious around the world. Global obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and has health professionals terming it a "rising epidemic". Last year, the World Health Organisation reported that 39% of adults were overweight, and 13% were obese. Regionally, the Americas topped the overweight list at 61.3%, followed by the Europeans at 58.6%; weighing in at 26.8% and 23% respectively for obesity.

Here in Singapore, we fare a little better. However, before we start patting ourselves on the back, we should be aware of our rising obesity rate.

Based on the 2019/2020 National Population Health Survey, the crude prevalence of obesity (10.5%) among residents aged 18 to 74 years in 2019-2020 had returned to the previous level seen in 2010 (10.5%) after a slight decrease in 2013 (8.6%) and 2017 (8.6%). Obesity was more common among males (11.9%) compared with females (9.3%) in 2019-2020.  In terms of age groups, obesity among adults aged 30 to 59 years was around 12%,almost double that of those aged 18 to 29 years old (6.6%).

Are You Overweight?

Obesity occurs when your body has accumulated excess body fat to the extent that your health is adversely affected, and you become at risk of developing chronic diseases. Here are two ways to give yourself a quick check-up:

Body Mass Index (BMI)

This is the widely-accepted method of categorising your weight, based on a formula derived from your height and weight.

Body Mass Index or BMI is calculated as:

weight (kg)

height (m) x height (m)

A BMI of 18.5 – 22.9 is considered healthy, whereas a result over 23 means your health is at risk. You are considered obese if you have a BMI of 30 and above.

Waist circumference

Monitor your waist circumference as well as your weight. Compared to BMI, waist circumference is a better measure of body fat and is often used to assess cardiovascular risk. If your waist size is above 80cm for Asian women, and 90cm for Asian men, take care! This implies abdominal obesity.

You can measure your waist circumference using a measuring tape. This is done close to the skin and ensuring that the tape is in between the lower ribs and navel. Measure during exhalation.

Related: BMI Calculator

Respect Your Body, Respect Yourself

Women with a high BMI going to the park to stay active and prevent excess weight gain.

Beyond the way you look (because everybody is unique), your goal should be to be healthy. According to the Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Board, obesity is not so much a lifestyle disease as it is a lifestyle choice. That means you can decide to live life better!

When you make that decision to live well and eat well, your health, fitness and self-esteem all get a mega boost that leaves you feeling good inside and out.

Needless to say, the best time to start with healthy habits is when you are young. You’ll be doing your future self a huge favour because it’s going to get that much harder to lose weight and change bad habits once they are part of you.

Related: Loving and Accepting Yourself

Don't Just Sit There, Do Something!

Before you jump the gun, know that it’s important to set a realistic goal. Be flexible, and adjust this along the way. You could aim to lose 0.5kg to 1kg per week.

Young woman leading an active lifestyle as advised by Health Promotion Board by doing sit-ups at the park.>


Exercise offers substantial health benefits regardless of what shape you’re currently in! Start with small measures: Take the stairs. Take exercise breaks in between study or work hours. Make time for play. Your goal is to get regular physical activity throughout the day—that's at least 60minutes per day for teens and 150 to 300 minutes per week for adults.

When you’ve got that going, why not add an extra dose of fun and fitness with a gym class or outdoor activity? To drop more kilos (especially for those of us with a high BMI and carrying too much excess weight), gradually increase your aerobic activity and include muscle-strengthening exercises. Muscle building promotes overall body fat loss, especially keeping that dangerous fat around your organs in check.


Little changes count. Cut down on sugar, fat and salt; increase your fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake. Make those calories count with nutrient-rich foods. Try to eat in moderation and do not exceed the recommended calorie intake. Use My Healthy Plate as a guide, and stick to regular mealtimes.

Those of us who have started work may find it difficult to adhere to regular mealtimes because of a busier schedule. But it is important to take some time out for a quick healthy meal instead of skipping meals as we may end up feeling hungry and overeating later.

Don't forget to drink lots of water! If you are counting calories, consuming 500kcal less than your estimated daily requirement should see you lose half a kilogram a week. How's that for weight loss!?

Mental Stamina

Once you’ve got the mindset to succeed, nothing’s going to hold you back! Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Learn to ignore marketing tactics when you buy food. Instead, train your eyes to spot Healthier Choice Symbols for a wiser choice.

It may take a little while, but the excess weight will come off. You’ll discover more energy and think more clearly too. Uncover a confident new you!

Give yourself an incentive by joining one of our programmes. You’ll be more likely to succeed and might even surprise yourself by exceeding your expectations. Not least, it’ll be a whole lot of fun.

HPB has a whole range of physical activity programmes suitable for anyone, anytime, anywhere! You’re bound to find something that fires your enthusiasm.

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.

Read these next: