You can’t exercise away poor dietary choices, study finds

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Exercising alone without healthy eating habits may not be enough to lower mortality risk. Lumina/Stocksy

A new study finds that exercising to make up for eating poorly doesn’t really work in terms of lowering mortality risks.

Similarly, eating well but remaining inactive may help lower your risk of dying from certain cancers to a degree, but does nothing for all-cause or cardiovascular disease mortality, the researchers found.

Researchers also observed that those who exercised the most and consumed the healthiest food significantly reduced their risk of dying from all causes, from cardiovascular disease, or from certain cancers.

There has been a lot of conversation — and a great deal of research — attempting to determine whether exercise or a healthy diet is more important for longevity. A new study led by researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia analyzing UK Biobank data may provide the answer.

Researchers found that people who engaged in high levels of physical activity and also ate a high quality diet had lower mortality risks.

For anyone who believed that one can exercise away poor dietary choices, this study suggests otherwise.

People who engage in one or the other lowered the risk of mortality to a lesser degree. Study corresponding author, associate professor Dr. Melody Ding, told Medical News Today:

“These groups still do better (and statistically significant) than the group with poor diet and lowest physical activity, but the group with the best diet and moderate or high physical activity levels do the best!”

The study focused on deaths due to all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and adiposity-related (PDAR) cancersTrusted Source.

Cardiology dietician Michelle Routhenstein, who specializes in heart health, and was not involved in the study, told MNT:

“The study results are no surprise to me. Many people have come to see me in my private practice after suffering a heart attack when training for their fourth or fifth marathon, or right after doing a CrossFit exercise.”

“When I do a comprehensive evaluation of their lifestyle, it is apparent that they thought their intense daily exercise regimen would make up for their poor, unbalanced diet, and it simply doesn’t.”

— Michelle Routhenstein, cardiology dietician The study is published in BMJ Sports Medicine.

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