Can You Outrun a Bad Diet? A New Study Says No.

by | July 30, 2022 | From Our Newsletter, Information & Advice

A man running on a gravel road.

By Kate Check

Researchers from Australia, Italy, the U.S. and Norway conducted a study to examine independent and related associations of diet and physical activity with all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality. The study involved 346,627 participants from the UK and the age of the participants at the start of the study ranged from 40-69 years old. The researchers collected “complete data on physical activity, diet and all covariates.”1 At the time of data collection, none of the participants presented with any comorbidities.

The researchers collected information on how frequently the participants did either moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and vigorous physical activity (VPA). Of all the participants, 40.8% reported doing no VPA at all, 26.5% reported less than 75 minutes per week, 15.4% reported doing between 76 and 150 minutes per week and 17.4% reported performing more than 150 minutes per week. For the baseline of diet quality, 22.1% of participants had a dietary index score of 0 (the poorest), 53.4% of participants had a dietary score of 1 (mid-range) and 24.5% of the participants had a dietary score index of 2-3 (the best). The diet quality index was based upon the American Heart Association Guidelines. The researchers followed up with the participants an average of 11.2 years later.

Researchers found that participants who had higher levels of physical activity had lower mortality rates from all three mortality outcomes (all-cause, cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer).  Those who recorded vigorous physical activity had slightly less of a mortality risk from cardiovascular disease compared to those who performed only moderate intensity exercise. Researchers observed the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in those performing 10-75 minutes a week of vigorous physical activity and 76-150 minutes a week of vigorous activity, not the highest category of 150 minutes per week or more. This finding shows that participants who did vigorous physical activity for more than 150 minutes a week did not gain additional protection from cardiovascular disease mortality. Participants who were in the best category of diet quality had a 14% lower risk in cancer mortality when compared to those in the worst diet category.

When exploring the linear combinations of joint effects between physical activity (MVPA and VPA) and diet quality index, the researchers found that compared with the highest risk combination (minimal doses of physical activity and a diet quality index of 0), most other combinations of physical activity and dietary quality had a significantly lower risk for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality. Researchers found that the lowest-risk combinations almost exclusively involved the highest diet quality index and the highest or second-highest physical activity categories.

Overall, researchers found that there was no evidence for high levels of physical activity (either moderate-to-vigorous or vigorous physical activity) fully offsetting a low quality diet. Researchers also found that there was no evidence for a higher quality diet fully offsetting a lack of physical activity.

Findings from this study confirm the importance of both physical activity and a quality diet in reducing the risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality. The good news is, adhering to both sufficient physical activity and a quality diet can minimize your mortality risk.

For more information, see this article:

If you would like help in making more educated dietary choices or if you would like to join one of our group exercise classes, please contact our front desk at 916-355-8500.


  1. Ding D, Van Buskirk J, Nguyen B, et al. Br J Sports Med Epub ahead of print: 25-07-2022. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-105195. 

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