Exercise Not the Magic Pill

Read time: 1.5 minutes

This morning someone sent me this link and asked for my feedback.

As an advocate for a balanced life that’s devoid of food or exercise obsession, I rarely read these mainstream articles. But for some reason I read this one.

Maybe I was compelled to read this article because of its blatant claim that more exercise is better.

Although I think many people in this country need to exercise more, I believe that the emphasis on exercise also overshadows the importance of healthy eating. As has been said, you cannot out-exercise a crappy diet.

In fact, for health and leanness, I would say that diet is far more important than exercise. I’m willing to go out on the limb and say that exercise, the way it’s generally used in this country, is to medicate diseases that a poor diet causes.

Anyway, here’s my response to the person that sent me the link:

There are too many factors not cited in this mainstream article. As such, it may be misleading.

Health, longevity, and physical youthfulness are based on a multitude of factors that include not only exercise but also diet, lifestyle factors like abstinence from smoking, moderate drinking, and avoidance of environmental toxins. The phytonutrients in vegetables and fruits are also linked to health, longevity, and youthfulness.

Here are facts the article omitted: Physically-fit people, or people who run or exercise, also tend to eat well, abstain from smoking, avoid environmental toxins, and consume more fruits and vegetables. Sedentary people tend to neglect themselves and their health, so they may also suffer accelerated aging and thus express more signs of aging.

Here’s a quote from a recent study on telomere length, a chromosomal metric that predicts aging (L. Mirabello, 2009):

The relationships between telomere length and inflammation-related factors, diet, exercise, body mass index, and other lifestyle variables [smoking, drinking, environmental] were explored since many of these have previously been associated with shorter telomeres. Healthy lifestyle factors (i.e., lower BMI, more exercise, tobacco abstinence, diets high in fruit and vegetables) tended to be associated with greater telomere length… correlations of telomere length with healthy lifestyles were noted, suggesting the role of these factors in telomere biology maintenance and potentially impacting overall health status.

Any mainstream article can easily take telomere data and suggest that running slows the aging process… leaving out the other critical factors. Oh, wait a minute, there’s already such an article:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/phys-ed-how-exercising-keeps-your-cells-young/

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