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Why Exercise, Not Dieting, Is The Key To A Longer Life

You’re reading Move, the nudge we need to get active, however makes us happiest and healthiest.

You might have heard the maths that to be fit and healthy, your focus should be 20% on exercise, and 80% the food you eat. But a major review of research on the subject argues that we’ve got that ratio all wrong.

Multiple studies have shown how people around the world have been trying to lose weight over the past 40 years, and yet obesity has continued to rise.

The authors of this new study argue that’s it’s quite possible to be “fat but fit”, and that people should concentrate on exercise rather than dieting for a longer life. From their review of previous research, they conclude that when it comes to getting healthy and cutting the risk of dying early, doing more exercise and improving your fitness is more effective than focusing on shedding pounds.

Writing in the journal iScience, Professor Glenn Gaesser, from the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University, and associate professor Siddhartha Angadi, from the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia want us to reboot how we think about “healthy” culture.

“A weight-centric approach to obesity treatment and prevention has been largely ineffective,” Prof Gaesser said. “Moreover, repeated weight loss efforts may contribute to weight gain, and is undoubtedly associated with the high prevalence of weight cycling (yo-yo dieting), which is associated with significant health risks.”

The study’s authors argue instead for a “weight-neutral” approach to the treatment of health issues caused by obesity.

We often vilify obesity, they say, even though a lack of exercise can be equally harmful. “Many obesity-related health conditions are more likely attributable to low physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness rather than obesity per se,” they suggest.

“Epidemiological studies show that cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity significantly attenuate, and sometimes eliminate, the increased mortality risk associated with obesity,” said Prof Gaesser.

Previous studies have also found that “increasing physical activity or cardiorespiratory fitness is consistently associated with greater reduction in risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than intentional weight loss”.


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