It turns out, no matter how hard you try, you can't out-exercise a bad diet. While a recent report from the UK's Academy Royal Colleges describes 30 minutes of exercise five times a week as a "miracle cure" more powerful than drugs administered for chronic diseases prevention and management, it does not help substantially with weight loss. Physical activity can reduce health risks associated with diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers by 30%, but it doesn't actually help us lose weight.
Although obesity is increasing globally, physical activity (at least in Western cultures) has remained fairly consistent. Obesity leads to a number of serious health problems. Obesity increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as it causes the body to become resistant to insulin. This resistance results in high levels of blood sugar, which is bad for health. Obesity also increases the chance of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and an increased tendency for blood to clot. All of these raise the risk of heart attacks and stroke. According to The Lancet disease reports, poor diet now generates more disease than physical inactivity, alcohol and smoking combined.
The blame for the increase in obesity is the amount and type of calories we are consuming, which are affecting our gut microbiome and our hormones.
The abundance of high fat, processed or packaged foods encourage us to eat empty calories full of saturated fats and sugars. Large, restaurant-sized food portions encourage us to eat more than is needful. Convenient fast food offers foods high in calories, fat and sodium. Foods that have the "halo effect" (think sugary electrolyte replacement drinks or granola bars, fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt or fiber fortified cookies) line grocery and health food store shelves and entice us to eat what is being pitched as "healthy" food, when it is not.
In a study of male and female mice, some of the mice were given a standard diet (CHOW) or a high fat/high sugar diet (HFHS) for nine weeks. The researchers found that the majority of altered and depleted microbiome were found in the mice having the HFHS diet.
Metabolic pathways associated with galactose metabolism, leukotriene metabolism, and androgen and estrogen biosynthesis and metabolism were differentially altered with an HFHS diet between sexes. We concluded the immense metabolite depletion and elevation of adverse metabolites associated with the HFHS diet is suggestive of poor gut health.
While many diets and exercise programs push the "calories in, calories out" argument that promotes fewer calories and more exercise, your body is a complex biochemical laboratory and not a bank account. According to Dr. Jade Teta, ND:
Stopping obesity means understanding hormones, not just calories. Hormones are the messengers that tell the body to burn fat or store fat, remain full or feel hungry, have cravings or not, enjoy balanced energy or feel fatigued. Hormones even impact your mood and motivation to exercise. You can think of hormones as analogous to computer software. They give the body instructions about what to do with the information it is exposed to.
These hormones, interrelated with our gut microbiome, are affected by the type and quantity of foods we are eating. Here are just a few links to the complex relationship between our hormone levels and obesity.
Of course diet isn't the only factor affecting our physical health. We still need exercise! We're proud to be hosting the Muscles for Myeloma 30-Day Fitness Challenge where over 700 myeloma patients have joined together for Blood Cancer Awareness Month. To date, the group has exercised a total of 512,126 cumulative minutes, 75% of our goal of 700,000 minutes.
But all of the good we are doing to stay moving can't overcome the effects of a bad diet.
"Exercise boosts your metabolism and reduces inflammation, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and even dementia," writes Dr. Mark Hyman. "But if you're eating a bad diet, exercise is not enough ... Bottom line: For optimal health, you need to exercise, but you can't exercise your way out of a bad diet!"
about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of HealthTree Foundation (formerly Myeloma Crowd).