When recreational runners pound the streets, they believe they’re boosting their health and fitness – and they are. But too many of them fall into a dangerous trap.

They focus solely on their exercise routine and forgo a healthy diet, thinking their workouts are enough. The unfortunate result of this erroneous belief is heart disease and a shorter life expectancy.

Here’s what you need to know to exercise safely and more effectively…

A new study shows that while exercise is fantastic for your health and longevity, if you want to live a long and healthy life, your exercise routine must go hand-in-hand with a healthy diet.

Dave McGillivray knows this from personal experience.

With eight Ironman Triathlons and 140 marathons under his belt, the 63-year-old was flummoxed to discover he had blocked arteries and required triple-bypass surgery.

“As a runner, I just felt that if the furnace was hot enough, it would burn whatever you put in,” he says. “So, I would eat anything and everything I wanted.” His physician, Aaron Baggish, hears this a lot.

“Time and time again I meet runners in their 50s and 60s, who think they’ve done pretty much everything right in their life from a health perspective who end up with heart disease. When I talk to them about their diets, they are often quite shocking.”

But these well-intentioned athletes aren’t entirely to blame for thinking diet doesn’t matter if they keep up their fitness because of the mixed messages they receive in the fitness community.

The Benefits of Youth

A study published in 2017 involved young healthy men who ate an exclusively fast-food, high fat, high sugar diet, without a single fruit or vegetable, for 14 consecutive days while they underwent high intensity interval training.

Despite the appalling diet their weight and blood sugar markers remained healthy, with no additional risks observed for heart disease. But what happens to young people in the short term does not equate with what develops by the time people reach middle age.

Because of the scarcity of research on how diet and exercise interact to impact health and longevity in the middle aged, a group from the University of Sydney, Australia set out to fill this gap.

They analyzed existing data on 346,627 British men and women. The data included information on how much moderate to vigorously intense physical activity participants self-reported as well as the quality of their diets.

The researchers defined a “good diet” as including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, two portions of fish per week and lower consumption of red meat, particularly processed meat.

Data on whole grains and dairy was missing, so this unfortunately had to be excluded from the analysis. They found that exercise in addition to a good diet made a big impact on one’s health and longevity.

Reduces All-Cause Death By 17 Percent

Over the course of eleven years there were 13,869 deaths. After the research team crunched the numbers, they found those who ate either a healthy good diet or engaged in high levels of activity lowered their risk of death to some degree.

But the greatest effect was seen in participants who had both high levels of physical activity and a high-quality diet. Compared to the physically inactive with the worst diets, they reduced their mortality risk by 27 percent from obesity related cancers, 19 percent from cardiovascular disease and 17 percent from all causes.

Associate Professor Melody Ding led the project. She explained the exciting results, saying, “Some people may think they could offset the impacts of a poor diet with high levels of exercise or offset the impacts of low physical activity with a high-quality diet, but the data shows that unfortunately this is not the case.

“Both regular physical activity and a healthy diet play an important role in promoting health and longevity.”

My Takeaway

These findings make perfect sense to me and line up with the results alternative health doctors have been reporting for years.

I encourage you to follow the advice I follow myself: Exercise and eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy oils—such as coconut oil. If you can do this regularly, you’ll see major changes in your health and well-being.


  1. https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a19726348/outrunning-a-bad-diet/
  2. https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2022/07/12/can-you-outrun-a-poor-diet.html