New research from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland examined the associations between leisure time physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption following participants from childhood to middle age.
The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, revealed a positive link between leisure-time physical activity and diet.
Analyzing data from 3,537 participants, the researchers grouped the subjects into four categories: Active, low-active, decreasingly and increasingly active. The subjects, who were 9 to 18 years at baseline in 1980 and 33 to 48 years at the last follow-up in 2011, self-reported their leisure-time physical activity and dietary consumption.
When compared to persistent low activity or inactivity, the study found persistent physical activity during leisure time from childhood to adulthood was linked to higher and more frequent fruit and vegetable consumption.
The study also noted that the men who decreased their activity level still had higher fruit and vegetable consumption than their less active peers until young adulthood, although that trend stopped at middle age. This suggests that decreasing leisure-time physical activity may indicate additional health risk, due to simultaneous detrimental changes in diet.
The participants who increased their activity level from childhood to adulthood also increased their fruit and vegetable intake, especially among females.
Nearly all the leisure-time physical activity subgroups saw a decrease in fruit and vegetable intake during teenage years.
Investing in the future
"Putting effort into adopting or maintaining a physically active lifestyle along with healthy dietary habits, starting from adolescence, would be important for health later in life,” said the authors.
"In health care guidance, it would be important to acknowledge that these two health behaviors may facilitate each other...For example, when aiming to increase a person's activity level, improving the quality of diet simultaneously might come rather naturally. This could be a way to promote more holistic well-being."
Study author Irinja Lounassalo said the results are in line with a study that found fruit and vegetable consumption in Finland has been rising during the 21st century, a trend Lounassalo calls “promising.”
Source: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
2019, 16(22), 4437; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16224437
“Associations of Leisure-Time Physical Activity Trajectories with Fruit and Vegetable Consumption from Childhood to Adulthood: The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study”
Authors: Irinja Lounassalo, et al.