It's not all about 'what we eat'

What is the biggest cause of unhealthy outcomes for obese people? I’m thinking most of us would immediately put diet as the number one cause. What if I rephrased the question: What has the biggest effect on the health of obese people? Again I imagine that a lot of us would assume diet would have the biggest effect. It makes sense, we are always hearing about how terrible the modern diet is. If you are overweight chances are you have been eating too much of the wrong types of food. While our diets can have a negative impact on our health, with diseases like diabetes, a bigger concern for our health is lack of activity. 

One of the world’s leading thinkers on exercise science is Dr Steven Blair. For over 25 years he has been studying the benefits of physical activity. While Steven acknowledges that our diets are a problem, one of his key arguments is that poor physical fitness correlates to more deaths than bad diets, particularly with cardiovascular disease. Now I’m sure Steven isn’t saying we shouldn’t be concerned about what is happening with our nutrition choices but he is trying to put our focus back on the importance physical activity has on a healthy life. One of his basic message is: Chances of you living a long life being overweight is dramatically increased if you are active.   

It appears that as we humans have evolved over time, we have learnt to create tools that remove activity from our lives. It’s like one of the key purposes of all this amazing technology is to make us move less. We drive to work in a car that has a button to push when you want to open a window, once at work we catch the lift to the next floor, when we get home we relax on the couch and use the remote so we don’t have to get up when we are watching TV.  

Recently I went around to a friend’s house and we started watching TV. They had a recordable system like MySky. While I was there I discovered a fascinating thing, because they had pre-recorded all the shows we watched they were able to fast forward through all the ads. At the end of the night we had watched 3 hours of content and because there were no ads we hadn't left the couch for that whole time. While ads can be a pain in the butt, they often make us get up and do something. While this technology seems convenient, it’s another example of how we are moving towards more inactivity and that there is a health cost for this convenience. 

I’m not writing this piece to say that you shouldn’t be trying to eat healthy, eating healthy food is all part of leading a healthy life, we all know this, but the message I want to get across and embedded in your mind today is that you need to be active too, for your health’s sake! We need to get off the couch, choose the stairs at work, walk to the shops, and look for those daily opportunities to move. There’s also a huge amount of value including an exercise routine in your life. Our bodies want us to be active, if they aren’t they become unhealthy which increases our chances of death, this may sound a bit full on but it is a fact. 

Here’s a suggestion, maybe you could start a movement diet, one that treats your activity like you would with a food diet. The aim would be getting more energy out and to be moving more. Your physical self wants you do do this and it will reward you with a healthier life if you do.  

If you aren’t that active, give your body a treat and get moving. The rewards are massive both physically and mentally and not only is it a good use of your energy you will be increasing the chances that you will live longer. 


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Bevan Eyles