It is not difficult to keep fit and well in Malaysia. From jungle trekking and trail hiking to cycling and watersports, there are many forms of exercise available. We will look at some of your options below.If you are living in Malaysia, it would be a shame not to make the most of the country’s unique landscape. For example, you could go trekking in the rainforest or jungle. Most trekking activity is done with experienced guides and is based around national parks and forest reserves. Hiking in places such as the Cameron Highlands is a popular activity. You can follow trails up into the mountains or through tea plantations. Templer Park in Selangor also offers some mixed trails, some of which take you past beautiful waterfalls.
Some of these hikes are relatively easy, whereas some are more challenging, so gauge your level of fitness carefully and choose appropriate walks. Even up in the hills, the tropical Malaysian climate can be very warm, and you do not want to risk sunstroke or overheating. Make sure you take a hat and some water with you, and check that it is possible to buy food on your chosen trail – some parks do not have extensive food outlets. Avoid jungle trekking at night, and take a lightweight waterproof jacket. Hiking shoes and/or trekking sandals are advised. It is also a good idea to take a swimsuit with you.
Cycling is also popular in Malaysia, and there are cycle routes across the country, including in Borneo and the Cameron Highlands, where there are some routes for dedicated mountain bikers. Cities like Kuala Lumpur also have cycle routes. If you intend to go cycling, make sure you check the weather first; Malaysia is prone to daily tropical storms, so you may need a light waterproof. Roads are generally considered to be of a good quality.
If you are trekking or cycling during Ramadan (Malaysia is a Muslim country), you may experience difficulties getting served during fasting hours, but travellers report relatively few problems. There are sometimes Chinese-run places that you can eat at, as they do not follow Islamic beliefs.
Since Malaysia has such an extensive coastline, you will find a range of watersports in Malaysian resorts, including:
• Scuba diving
• Jet skiing
You can go white water rafting in Sabah and other areas. Some of the islands, such as Sipadan, have a rich biodiversity and are fascinating places to visit. If sailing is your thing, the island peninsula of Langkawi has hosted the world sailing competition of the Monsoon Cup.
In addition to this, team sports are popular in Malaysia, including:
• Field hockey
• Rugby union
• Mixed martial arts
Football and cricket are the most popular, and you may be able to find amateur teams for expats in your community. You might even like to try the national sport of Malaysia, Sepak Takraw, in which the players must kick a takraw (hollow ball) over a net. Sepak Takraw resembles volleyball and badminton, but you are not allowed to use your hands.
You can also go horse riding in Malaysia, and there are a number of horse riding tours across the country that you can sign up for. The Selangor Turf Club offers riding lessons and livery services, plus dressage and carriage riding.
Running in Malaysia is also a popular pastime, but bear in mind that there are some guidelines that ideally you should follow:
• Run early in the morning, before the full heat of the day, or in the evening
• Wear light-reflective clothing (not black)
• Make sure you are hydrated, and if necessary take electrolyte tablets
• Take small amounts of cash with you, but be aware that some runners and pedestrians in Kuala Lumpur have been targeted by muggers, so do not take too many valuables with you; you might like to stick to well lit areas or run in a group
• Make sure you take time to adjust to the humidity
Malaysia also has plenty of gyms. Urban areas, such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang, have a plethora of gyms, many of which are air conditioned, well equipped and with English-speakers. Expats report that their daily rates can be quite high, from RM50 to RM70 (US$11 to US$15), although some will offer an occasional free pass. More basic gyms can be found as well, and these are much cheaper: around US$1 per visit.
It is possible to have a healthy diet in Malaysia. National dishes, such as nasi kerabu (‘blue rice’, which usually has half the calories of the higher fat nasi lemak) and thosai (flatbread, which includes rice, fenugreek seeds and split black lentils) can be healthier options than some of the high-fat choices on the menu. In the same way, seaweed spring rolls will be better for you than deep fried popiah.
Make sure you take responsibility for your own health in Malaysia, and sign up with your local GP and dental clinic (you will not be eligible for national health insurance, so you will need to take out private cover or pay out of pocket).
Malaysia has a good healthcare system, but you should make sure that you are aware of any local issues, such as hotspots of dengue fever or outbreaks of zika virus. Check country-specific health advice before you travel, and ensure that you are up to date with the latest health advice. If you suffer from a chronic condition, such as asthma, or have respiratory issues, make sure that you have sufficient medication for your trip. Also, be aware that the smoke from forest fires over the sea in Indonesia can cause air quality problems.
Make sure that you safeguard your mental health, too. Get plenty of exercise; eat healthily; and take care not to become too isolated from family or friends. Remember that there are many ways to keep in touch digitally, as well as in person, if you are feeling lonely.