We all know how important it is to exercise when we are trying to lose weight. Exercise burns off calories, gets us fit and has long-term health benefits. There is a belief that it doesn’t matter what we eat, as long as we take some physical exercise to cancel it out.
If like many people you believe this, you are in for a shock. The British Journal of Sports Medicine has printed an editorial by three international experts in this field who state that physical activity plays little role in the fight against obesity.
They say that instead the public health message should focus on promoting healthy eating. The doctors said that it was time to ‘bust the myth’ about exercise and tackle the rising consumption of excess sugar and carbohydrates.
Research shows that the risk of diabetes increases 11 times more for every 150 additional sugar calories consumed so simple calorie counting is not enough to ensure a healthy diet. Exercising will not clear up this damage either.
The experts, including London based cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra have levelled some of the blame at the food industry for encouraging the belief that exercise could counter the impact of healthy eating.
They have called for an end to the association of junk food and energy drinks with sport in the same way that tobacco is now banned.
Most of us take this association for granted but when you think of it, this is pervasive.Little things, such as McDonalds building the world’s largest McDonalds in the 2012 London Olympic Village and all those celebratory images of athletes knocking back sports drinks following a triumph!
It doesn’t seem so different to the tobacco companies sponsoring sporting events and using sportsmen to endorse cigarettes.
The experts referred to evidence from the Lancet global burden of disease programme. This shows that ill health is more linked to unhealthy eating than a lack of physical activity smoking and alcohol combined.
The Food and Drink Federation have unsurprisingly played this down. Speaking in an interview with the BBC, a federation spokeswoman said,
The benefits of physical activity aren’t food industry hype or conspiracy, as suggested. A healthy lifestyle will include both a balanced diet and exercise.
Some impartial dietary experts have also warned against giving up on exercise. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommend a well balanced diet combined with physical activity and says that it would be idiotic to rule out the importance of exercise.
According to Dr Malhotra,
An obese person does not need to do one iota of exercise to lose weight, they just need to eat less. My biggest concern is that the messaging that is coming to the public suggests you can eat what you like as long as you exercise. That is unscientific and wrong. You cannot outrun a bad diet.
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