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Exercise can’t make up for a bad diet, study shows

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Think you can make up for unhealthy eating habits with strenuous workouts? Think again, researchers say.

Led by researchers from Australia, the team looked at data for nearly 347,000 participants in the UK Biobank study. They defined high-quality diets as those with five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day, two servings of fish a week, and low consumption of red meat.

People with lowest risk for early death had a higher quality diet and higher levels of physical activity. They lowered their risk of dying from all causes by 17%, from cardiovascular disease by 19% and from certain cancers by 27% compared with the participants who had poor diets and were physically inactive.


“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,” said lead study author Melody Ding, an associate professor at the University of Sydney. “Public health messages and clinical advice should focus on promoting both physical activity and dietary guidelines to promote healthy longevity.”

The study was published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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