The belief that you can exercise or out-run a bad diet partially stems from conventional calories-in-calories-out thinking.
It’s no secret that some of the most fundamental things you can do for your health are to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. What’s been less clear is how much of each is required, and whether one can make up for a lack of the other. There have been a few studies in the past that showed vigorous exercise balances out the negative effects of excess eating. But a new study by University of Sydney researchers suggests otherwise, finding that in the long term, diet and exercise independently affect health and mortality. One cannot make up for the other.
In this study, people reported their physical activity (broken down into vigorous and moderate exercise) and diet quality (based on their intake of fresh produce, fish and meat), as well as other factors that could influence their health such as smoking status, alcohol consumption, sex, level of education, employment and pre-existing hypertension or diabetes. They were followed up for about 11 years.
From nearly 350,000 participants, 2650 deaths were linked to cardiovascular disease and about 4500 deaths were linked to cancers associated with diet, weight and exercise. High levels of exercise were linked to lower cardiovascular disease mortality, while diet seemed to have a less important role in preventing heart disease. But having a healthy diet was linked to lower rates of mortality associated with various cancers.
This new research has shown that while diet and exercise both play an important role in your long-term health outcomes, they seem to offer protection in different areas, with a good diet having stronger links with lower cancer mortality, and regular and vigorous exercise being linked to reduced all-cause and cardiovascular disease death rates. Sadly, for some, it doesn’t appear that extra exercise can make up for a diet of takeaway and fried foods when it comes to your long-term health and longevity.