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What will keep you healthy longer: diet or exercise?

Commented on November 12, 2013
Created November 11, 2013 at 5:26 PM

This is meant more of a hypothetical question since, in reality, it's not an either/or situation.

We know (I assume) that we need both eating right and exercise for a healthy life, and there's constant debates over what's more important. We've all heard that you can't out-exercise a bad diet, but a good exercise regime helps blunt the effect of some bad eating. On the other hand, if we don't exercise and rely solely on our diet to save us, we're missing out on other health benefits.

So, my topic for discussion is: What would keep you healthy longer, eating right without exercising, or exercising right without worrying about diet? Discuss!

2abc7edf08d56505e360c1912008a0f5

(123)

on November 12, 2013
at 07:02 PM

For me, I feel it is definitely diet. A healthy diet gives you a more steady supply of energy, whereas exercise is a temporary surge. But that is just one thought, not the entire reason I say diet first.

F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

(720)

on November 12, 2013
at 12:51 AM

Sounds like my weekly activities....except for the mushroom & bike stuff. People have gym memberships & hire someone to do their yard work!?

I think I'm one of the few guys in the OC, CA who does his own yard work. No $150 / month "mow & blow" and no $200 gym membership.

F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

(720)

on November 12, 2013
at 12:46 AM

As Mark Sisson says "Strong people are more useful & harder to kill". But I have found that I really don't need all that much exercise to maintain my muscle.

782d92f4127823bdfb2ddfcbcf961d0e

(5231)

on November 12, 2013
at 12:43 AM

I'm inclined to agree with you. While diet and exercise are both important for a healthy life, diet comes first. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with osteoporosis. And I couldn't figure it out because I was doing everything right; weight bearing exercise three times a week, calcium supplements, and a healthy SAD diet. I cut out the gluten and many symptoms disappeared although I won't know for sure about the osteoporosis until my next DEXA scan in three years. Without the availability of the proper nutrients, all the exercise in the world will not build a healthy body.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on November 12, 2013
at 12:09 AM

Sitting around is good exercise if you're a plant but not if you're human. All the activities you describe are what I call subaerobic, and I lost 25 lbs doing those. No gym time was necessary.

3d58b5fb4f9780e2f47d4dcc53338a5a

(2771)

on November 11, 2013
at 07:14 PM

Oh, definitely, the question really doesn't make sense as a realistic question. It's more of a topic of discussion and get our brains working.

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8 Answers

0
F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

(720)

on November 12, 2013
at 12:58 AM

I vote for diet. A good diet is the starting point.

Unless one sits in front of a computer or TV all day, even being minimally active.. walking to work or the store or walking at work is probably enough to do the trick. I shoot for 10,000 steps. Being minimally active but having a crappy diet....that won't work.

Both are important but with proper diet, the level of exercise to complement it, is easy to achieve.

I seriously doubt that a crappy diet can be corrected by any amount of exercise...

so (imo) diet is more important.

0
56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on November 11, 2013
at 11:19 PM

exercise happens. cleaning the garage is exercise, raking the leaves, taking the houseplants out and in for the summer. If you have a veg garden, you are going to get it (along with some vit. D). Walking to the bus stop is aerobic exercise, as is doing errands on a bike. I have some 100 mushroom logs, and when I fruit them I guarantee I get the upper body workout. Same with last week planting of nine fruit trees. Perhaps you mean "aerobic" exercise, but for that, I feel I am good with one soccer and one swim a week. But if I have a single dinner with pasta, a salami sandwich, fries, sulfited wine and Haagen Dazs I am going to be miserable, and note I have not even mentioned MacDonald, Oreos or Cheetos.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on November 12, 2013
at 12:09 AM

Sitting around is good exercise if you're a plant but not if you're human. All the activities you describe are what I call subaerobic, and I lost 25 lbs doing those. No gym time was necessary.

F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

(720)

on November 12, 2013
at 12:51 AM

Sounds like my weekly activities....except for the mushroom & bike stuff. People have gym memberships & hire someone to do their yard work!?

I think I'm one of the few guys in the OC, CA who does his own yard work. No $150 / month "mow & blow" and no $200 gym membership.

0
Medium avatar

on November 11, 2013
at 10:30 PM

I like this thought experiment.

Obviously both are important though perhaps not equally so, particularly in light of this specific question: "What will keep you healthy longer?" with the added i "just one or the other" clause..

  • I vote diet hands down.
  • At one extreme, if everything you ate was filled with HFCS, PUFA, Gluten, and other nasties and you were severely malnourished regarding all your micronutriens, pounding at your cells with terribly damaging toxins, etc... no amount of exercise will keep you going in the long term. Your body will wear down and much of the damage will be irreparable.

    I knew a chronic runner in college whose fingernails were coming off. He would spontaneously bleed in class. It was disgusting and I felt really sorry for him. He'd be there eating his protein bars and drinking his gatoraide and talking about how he just ran 30 miles but he looked like shit! He was shaky all the time and stood with one foot in the grave.

    At the other extreme, if you did nothing but meditate all day and ate just a little bit of extremely nutrient dense food - just enough calories to meet your negligible, meditated needs while ensuring all your diet was balanced and your micronutrients sufficient... well I'd bet you could keep at it for a very long time and then get up and heal/repair with a little exercise at will. You'd be scrawny and unhealthy for the ordeal but better than the former scenario.

    I never met anyone for an n=1 for this scenario but I'm sure you could look up some relevant monk stories.

    782d92f4127823bdfb2ddfcbcf961d0e

    (5231)

    on November 12, 2013
    at 12:43 AM

    I'm inclined to agree with you. While diet and exercise are both important for a healthy life, diet comes first. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with osteoporosis. And I couldn't figure it out because I was doing everything right; weight bearing exercise three times a week, calcium supplements, and a healthy SAD diet. I cut out the gluten and many symptoms disappeared although I won't know for sure about the osteoporosis until my next DEXA scan in three years. Without the availability of the proper nutrients, all the exercise in the world will not build a healthy body.

    0
    Medium avatar

    (238)

    on November 11, 2013
    at 08:27 PM

    Depends on what you consider exercising. If just normal casual active walking around everyday is excluded from "exercise" then I clearly vote for diet as most important. As for weight control you do it mainly by diet and it is effective life long and through any kind of injury sustained while exercising. Ever see what happens to a runner who is hurt and out of action for long periods of time? The ones I know get crazed because they can't run and they gain weight which freaks them out more. I know it is a generalization but it is what I observed.

    Putting crappy gas into your car might not stop you from going to work, but eventually the fuel lines can clog and the rest of the engine will suffer from rust, pitting, etc.

    0
    Medium avatar

    (10611)

    on November 11, 2013
    at 08:16 PM

    If you're obese diet helps the most. Getting rid of the toxic belly is job #1.

    If you're normal weight lots of sub-aerobic exercise helps the most. CV health benefits from lower blood pressure and higher HDL. I can't get those improvements by eating.

    Here's a pretty good illustration of the benefits. This guy is pushing the use of a heart rate monitor to make sure you stay sub-aerobic, to stay at maximum fat metabolism:

    http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/larry-fitness-training-and-sports/using-heart-rate-monitors-to-burn-fat/

    0
    56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

    (1822)

    on November 11, 2013
    at 06:46 PM

    Diet without a doubt. You only need limited amounts of exercise, but if your diet is 90% healthy that is not good enough. I always ate pounds of fruits and vegetables, but until you kick corn oil and pasta out of your life, you are not going to make the jump. Also exercise indoors is not "grass fed".

    0
    96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

    (19463)

    on November 11, 2013
    at 06:17 PM

    Your question should obviously not make any sense to you, It's like asking which hand or which leg is more important.

    Short answer: both are important - work on whichever is more deficient in your own life, or both if both need it, and realize you can't out-diet bad exercise either. Additionally add in the question of stress vs eustress vs sleep/recovery. Add in, do you have healthy meaningful relationships with friends and loved ones? Is your job satisfying?

    Long answer: what are your goals, where are you in regards to exercise, and diet? Are you working out too little, too much, the wrong way, with good or bad form? Is it something health enhancing such as HIIT, burst, weight lifting, or is it something damaging like chronic cardio? Are you doing full on crossfit 7 days a week - if so, ask yourself why and cut back. Are you doing zero exercise? If so, ask yourself why.

    Are you eating the appropriate foods for your lifestyle? The right amount of carbs for your activity level/insulin resistance/metabolic goals? Are you eating high quality meats, organic leafy greens, organic vegetables, starches, bone broths, fermented foods, organ meats, and nuts, fluoride/chlorine free water? Do you expose yourself to sunlight and cold?

    Are you getting enough, high quality, uninterrupted sleep in a darkened room? Do you wake up with energy before the alarm clock, or do you drag yourself out of bed?

    If you're approaching your 40s or 50s, are you actively trying to gain muscle to prevent sarcopenia? Because if you're not, you can quickly lose muscle after you're in your 50s and this accelerates gradually to your 70s and beyond - and frailty and death soon follow. Muscle is a metabolic reservoir that keeps you alive. If even you're a female and don't want bulky muscle, you should consider this factor - you won't look like a body builder without hormones, but if you lack muscle, you'll die quicker.

    3d58b5fb4f9780e2f47d4dcc53338a5a

    (2771)

    on November 11, 2013
    at 07:14 PM

    Oh, definitely, the question really doesn't make sense as a realistic question. It's more of a topic of discussion and get our brains working.

    F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

    (720)

    on November 12, 2013
    at 12:46 AM

    As Mark Sisson says "Strong people are more useful & harder to kill". But I have found that I really don't need all that much exercise to maintain my muscle.

    0
    62fafa8cb15af7c562fa8c270f7b6174

    on November 11, 2013
    at 05:34 PM

    I vote excercise. Without some form of structured challenging movement, the body atrophies or will be injured when surprised into action. Sometimes our work can satisfy this need, but not work that parks the rear end in a chair for extended periods. The lymph system depends on us getting up and away from these computer screens on a regular basis!

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