According to international specialists, physical activity has little role in tackling obesity and instead public health messages should squarely focus on unhealthy eating.
In an article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, three experts said it was time to “bust the myth” about exercise.
They said while exercising was a key part of staving off diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia, its impact on obesity was minimal.
The experts blamed the food industry for encouraging the belief that exercise could counteract the impact of unhealthy eating.
They even likened their tactics as “chillingly similar” to those of Big Tobacco on smoking and said celebratory endorsements of sugary drinks and the association of junk food and sport must end.
The experts said there was evidence that up to 40% of those within a normal weight range will still harbor harmful metabolic abnormalities typically associated with obesity.
Despite this public health messaging had “unhelpfully” focused on maintaining a healthy weight through calorie counting when it was the source of calories that mattered most – research has shown that diabetes increases 11-fold for every 150 additional sugar calories consumed compared to fat calories.
The experts pointed to evidence from the Lancet global burden of disease program which shows that unhealthy eating was linked to more ill health than physical activity, alcohol and smoking combined.