Exercise has more impact on health than diet

Published: Mon 2 May 2016 11:47 AM
Exercise has more impact on health than diet
Exercise has more impact than dieting on people’s health. Even among people who are obese, those who exercise regularly have a lower death rate than both obese and slender people who do not exercise.
“Recent evidence is telling us that inactivity is a bigger epidemic than obesity, and even in people who are overweight, moving is protective of their health,” sports physician Dr Chris Hanna will tell an international medical conference today.
Dr Hanna, who will speak on ‘Fat and Fit’ at the annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, says that obese people with a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 who are not fit have a rate of 62 deaths per 10,000 people years. Obese people who are moderately fit have a much lower rate of 18 deaths per 10,000 people years.
He says “moderately fit” is at least 150 minutes of rhythmic aerobic activity per week, including walking, cycling and swimming. But people who wish to actually lose weight should do 200-300 minutes of moderate exercise and eat a healthy diet as well.
“Fifty per cent of our health status depends on behaviour; whether we move around or whether we sit down, the type of food we eat and the type of sleep we get. Over the last 30 years the average weight of people living on Planet Earth has skyrocketed. More than 25 per cent of the population in Australia and New Zealand has a body mass index over 30. It’s being called globesity.”
Dr Hanna says that while exercise clearly has a protective effect on the health of obese people, it is also true that they are at slightly higher risk of heart attack when they first begin a new exercise regime, which is why it is important to start gradually.
And he said that some problems would remain for obese patients having surgery, even if their fitness improved: “There will still be difficulties with intubation, ventilation, head posture and external cardiac compression.”
Middle-aged men in Lycra (MAMILs) have a “weekend warrior” mind-set, psychologist says
Mid-life male cyclists riding at high speed on suburban roads on weekends may be “sublimating primitive urges to mate and fight”, according to leading sports psychologist Campbell Thompson.
Mr Thompson, who is working with a number of sports teams preparing for the Rio Olympics later this year, will speak today on “The Psychology of the MAMIL” at the annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists in Auckland.
“One of the characteristics of the MAMIL is that he approaches recreational cycling in an intense and focused way,” says Mr Thompson. “Why do people pursue a recreational activity with such ferocity?
“The MAMILs I know are often highly motivated people used to succeeding in different areas of life, who are now putting that energy and focus into a sport. The archetypal MAMIL is someone who’s channelling his ‘weekend warrior’, developing an almost professional level of competitiveness about what is essentially a social activity.
“An international athlete I know says that he’s seen club cyclists putting almost as much time into training for the B-grade club race as he is putting into his Olympic training.
“Some would say that at a deep, dark psychological level, middle-aged men still do have this animalistic drive to mate and fight, but they might not get much opportunity to do either of those things. So to throw yourself into a competitive physical endeavour, battling others on the bike to go faster, could be a healthy channel for those energies.”
Mr Thompson, a psychologist based in Auckland specialising in high-performance sports, says weekend life in Lycra is also good for men’s mental health. Scottish research had shown that men relaxed and shared emotional talk the most when socialising and drinking with other men. “But take away the beer in that face-to-face situation, and for many men it gets a bit weird.”
Men seem better able to talk about what’s important to them while in motion: “On bikes, it might be easier for men to talk because you’re not facing each other, and you’re already both part of the same tribe. Maybe that’s why you talk about life, the universe and everything on a long ride, which is good for mental health.”
And he is giving this MAMILs talk at a conference of anaesthetists because…? “There’s something of the endurance sport about qualifying as an anaesthetist. It’s a long, arduous and often solitary endeavour. That could be why there’s something in the MAMIL lifestyle that appeals to lots of these medical specialists.
“This will help an audience of highly motivated people think about whether they are channeling their energies in a way that keeps them healthy and engaged. Highly motivated achievers can sometimes go a bit over the top with commitment and enthusiasm levels. Ageing joints, energy levels and relationships can all blow out pretty quickly if you get the mix wrong.”
And they will get it from a horse’s mouth. Mr Thompson, while not quite qualifying as middle-aged – “I’m a bit shy of 40” – does admit to owning a drawer full of Lycra.
For more information or to request interviews, please contact ANZCA Media Manager Karen Kissane on +61 408 259 369 or Follow us on Twitter @ANZCA.

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