The big news story today caught my attention instantly – the headlines vary, but the gist is the same. A large study has found that a lack of exercise actually contributes towards more deaths than obesity. That sounds like a pretty bold statement to make, but the 12 year study (which has included more than 300,000 people) has come up with some pretty interesting figures. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have found that around 676,000 deaths each year can be linked to inactivity, whilst around 337,000 were from being overweight. (Side note: I’m not sure how those figures work considering there were 300,000 people studied…perhaps the scope of it was larger than we know!)
As many of you know, I’m a big health and fitness nerd, and spend half my life talking about the subjects! My interest was sparked when, after finishing my degree and living on convenience food for a good 8 months whilst I stressed about my assignments, I realised I’d put on 2 stone. I embarked on a mission to get fit and healthy, and though I lost weight I also couldn’t believe how alive I felt. Here’s a quick ‘before’ and ‘after’!
So, what do I think of this new study? Well it’s hard to argue with the figures when they’re in black and white, but I do believe it’s a bit more complex than it seems. Firstly, inactivity and being overweight often go hand-in-hand – although I was never anywhere near obese, just technically a few pounds overweight, I can say hand-on-heart that exercise was just not something I did. Ever. Although I was eating poorly I know that my lack of activity (brought on by spending every waking minute hunched over research papers) definitely contributed to my weight gain. So it’s impossible to overlook the very direct link there!
However, there is a big but (and I cannot lie) – as much as exercise is incredibly important, and as much as I love the new campaigns we’re seeing right now (This Girl Can, encouraging people to do a brisk 20 minute walk each day etc) you simply can’t ignore the other side of the matter – food! There has been very little mention of maintaining a healthy diet alongside working out more, which is a real shame as the two are so vitally linked. If you exercise but eat utter crap, it really does defeat the object – having a healthy diet full of fresh fruit and veg (if you think this is impossible, check out this post I wrote a while ago) and with far less processed food than is in the standard British/American diet at present.
All in all, any move towards, well, moving more can only be a good thing! But unless you include a nutritious diet into the equation I’m not sure how much of a health revolution this study might inspire. Exercise often, eat well, get into a healthy frame of mind and learn to love the feeling you get from your new lifestyle!
What do you think of the study?