The good news is that following a healthy diet and exercise program definitely helps stave off chronic diseases like heart disease. The bad news is that if you’re doing one but not the other, you’re not doing enough. As the old saying goes, “You can’t outgrow your diet.” Turns out you can’t eat off the couch either.
A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that going to the gym will not counteract the consequences of eating high-fat foods, and eating clean cannot undo sedentary habits. The authors said this was the first study to look at diet and exercise alongside general mortality and specific killer diseases, such as cancer.
An international team of researchers looked at data from nearly 350,000 participants collected from the UK Biobank, a massive medical database containing information about the health of people across Britain. They followed each other for a decade. Study participants, with an average age of 57, were in good health at the start of the study, meaning they had not been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, cancer or chronic pain.
A high-quality diet included at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day, two or more servings of fish per week, fewer than two servings of processed meats per week, and no more than five servings of red meat per week. The study did not measure so-called discretionary foods like soft drinks or desserts.
Participants completed another questionnaire asking for the total number of minutes spent walking and engaging in moderate physical activity, such as carrying light loads or riding a bicycle at a steady pace, and vigorous physical activity that lasted more than 10 minutes. at a time.
Unsurprisingly, people with both higher physical activity levels and higher quality diets had the lowest mortality risk. Even just 10-75 minutes a week made a difference.
Stephen Ward, MD, an internist with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, said that combining a healthy diet with muscle-building exercises helps prevent chronic diseases like arthritis, heart disease and even cancer.
“Lifestyle is everything,” he said. “Be focused on prevention rather than reaction. Thinking, ‘I can eat whatever I want and fix it later’ is not the path we want to follow.
He said avoiding processed foods is a great place to start building a healthier diet. And a walk around the high school track won’t make you “healthy.” Incorporating weight training into your diet, even with light weights, boosts your metabolism and allows your body to build muscle and burn fat, he said.