What happens if you exercise regularly but eat an unhealthy diet?

Dr Frank Lipman
Dec 19, 2022

Does regular exercise cancel out a bad diet? ⁠Recent research investigated the ability of exercise to mitigate the effects of an unhealthy diet on death risk.

Study Summary

The study, which relied on data from 360,600 individuals, concluded that:

  • When compared to those who were inactive and ate a poor diet, those who were both highly active and ate healthy, had a 17% reduced likelihood of dying, a 19% reduced likelihood of heart disease, and a 27% lowered risk of certain cancers.
  • Those who were both active and ate healthy had a reduced risk for heart disease, cancer and death compared to those who were active and ate poorly.

As defined by this study, a high-quality diet included a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Additionally, these diets had at least two portions of fish per week and were low in both red and processed meats.

The Hearty Take

Do you think that regular exercise makes up for a poor diet? Individuals who exercise regularly, but eat poorly, may be more likely to develop diseases like heart disease and cancer, and more likely to die early. Both exercise and a nutrient-dense diet are essential for a long and healthy life. Need help adjusting your diet? Reach out to your nutritionist!

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