In a recent editorial article published in the Nutrients Journal, Spanish researchers discussed the impact of lifestyle and modifiable behaviors such as exercise and diet and their interactions on human health across ages.
Study: Effects of diet: Interaction of exercise on human health across the lifespan. Image Credit: 279photoStudio/Shutterstock.com
The advent of globalization and the rapid technological advances of the last century have substantially changed the way of life of people all over the world. However, along with healthcare, nutrition, transportation and technological advances, globalization has also changed people’s choices, leisure activities, work routines and behaviours.
These factors have, in turn, influenced the occurrence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, mental disorders, chronic respiratory diseases and even some types of cancer which are prevalent in all age groups.
However, these infectious diseases are also multifactorial, and lifestyle choices are important modifiable risk factors in their development, prevention, and treatment. Many deaths from NCDs have been associated with excessive sodium or salt intake, alcohol use, and lack of physical activity.
The editorial commented on the challenges and benefits of the interaction of diet and exercise across the lifespan in reducing the risk of NCDs.
Healthy lifestyle habits
The stages of childhood and adolescence are critical in establishing lifelong habits for a healthy lifestyle, and evidence suggests that a childhood consisting of regular exercise and healthy eating habits can reduce the risk of various chronic diseases in the ‘adulthood.
A diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and plant proteins is essential for children’s growth and development.
However, the increasing availability of unhealthy and processed foods and sedentary habits resulting from extended periods of using electronic devices present substantial challenges to achieving these healthy lifestyle habits.
Studies have shown that sedentary habits and low levels of exercise are also associated with the consumption of sweets, snacks and sugary drinks among children of all ages, which increases the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
The independence and autonomy of young adulthood often exacerbates unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity as young adults struggle to find time to prioritize healthy diet and exercise amid increasing academic and social demands and commitments.
These unhealthy behaviors increase the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease later in life.
Mounting evidence indicates that the Mediterranean diet is linked to significant improvements in body mass index, mental health parameters and overall quality of life.
Combining such nutritional interventions with physical activity is a promising method for making healthier lifestyle choices.
Furthermore, the need for young adults to exercise their independence makes them ideal candidates for strategies to improve their health-related lifestyle choices and life skills.
A study examining calorie restriction and exercise involving jumping rope, individually and in combination, reported that while calorie restriction alone and in combination with jumping rope successfully reduced body weight , only a variety of calorie restriction and exercise led to improvements in metabolic profile and lowering markers of inflammation in young adults.
However, calorie restrictions can be difficult to maintain for long periods, especially in exceptional cases with dietary restrictions or pre-existing medical conditions.
While programs like BALANCE recommend following healthier eating patterns that include lower intakes of ultra-processed foods, sugar and salt, and higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, they don’t discuss the interactions between a healthy diet and physical activity.
The interaction between the two main modifiable factors – diet and exercise – plays a vital role in the prevention of various NCDs and more research is needed to understand the interaction between the two factors.
Age and lifestyle habits
Research suggests that adherence to healthy lifestyle choices decreases with age and that the physiological changes associated with aging further reduce the mobility and independence needed for self-care and healthy habits.
Aging is associated with multimorbidity, including hypertension, hyperglycemia, abdominal obesity, and high triglyceride levels. Studies have shown that active older individuals show a lower prevalence of hypertension and abdominal obesity, highlighting the need to maintain healthy habits throughout life.
Physical activity is also closely linked to mental health, with studies reporting lower inflammatory markers and depression associated with exercise in older individuals.
Overall, the editorial highlights the importance of teaching and maintaining healthy lifestyle habits associated with diet and exercise, the two main modifiable risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc.
With increasing access to unhealthy foods and a shift to sedentary lifestyles across all ages, there is a need to emphasize maintaining healthy eating patterns and physical activity levels.
More research is also needed to understand the interaction between exercise and diet in reducing the risk of NCDs.