In a study from the University of Sydney, scientists found that high levels of physical activity do not counteract the detrimental effects of a poor diet on mortality risk.
They found participants who had both high levels of physical activity and a high-quality diet had the lowest risk of death, showing that you cannot “outrun” a poor diet.
In the study, the researchers used a large population-based sample (360,600) of British adults from the UK Biobank.
High-quality diets included at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, two portions of fish per week and lower consumption of red meat, particularly processed meat.
The team revealed that for those who had high levels of physical activity and a high-quality diet, their death risk was reduced by 17% from all causes, 19% from heart disease and 27% from selected cancers, as compared with those with the worst diet who were physically inactive.
The team says both regular physical activity and a healthy diet play an important role in promoting health and longevity.
Some people may think they could offset the impacts of a poor diet with high levels of exercise or offset the impacts of low physical activity with a high-quality diet, but the data shows that unfortunately, this is not the case.
Adhering to both a quality diet and sufficient physical activity is important for optimally reducing the risk of death from all causes, heart disease and cancers.
A small number of studies have previously found that high-intensity exercise may counteract detrimental physiological responses to over-eating.
However, the long-term effects of how diet and physical activity interact with each other remained less explored.
The findings from this study confirm the importance of both physical activity and quality diet in all-cause and cause-specific mortality.
This study reinforces the importance of both physical activity and diet quality for achieving the greatest reduction in mortality risk.
The team says public health messages and clinical advice should focus on promoting both physical activity and dietary guidelines to promote healthy longevity.
If you care about nutrition, please read studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease.
For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.
The study was conducted by Melody Ding et al and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
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