Nutrition and exercise: equal players in good health

Published online: 6 January 2017

Group walking through countryside

From increasing carbohydrate intake before endurance sport to consuming protein to improve muscle recovery, nutrition is consistently linked with elite sporting performance.  However, exercise and nutrition play an equally important role in the general population’s health and wellbeing.  Evidence links regular physical activity with improved cardiovascular health, glycaemic control and lipid metabolism.  Evidence also finds a positive association between exercise and mental health.

The Nutrition Society’s Scottish Section will bring together experts in nutrition and exercise to discuss the crucial role of physical activity for human health during the Spring Conference on 28 – 29 March 2017.  The conference, held at the University of Stirling, Scotland's University for Sporting Excellence, will consider the current evidence and the practical application of findings to improve health across the lifespan.

Leading expert in muscle metabolism, Professor Lawrence Spriet from the University of Guelph, Canada, will set the scene providing a historic perspective of invasive and non-invasive methodologies used to measure exercise energetics and energy balance, both within laboratory and field conditions. These techniques underpin current knowledge and are the basis for understanding the importance of skeletal muscle for healthy ageing, a topic which is becoming increasingly important as the population ages.  

There continues to be debate on the benefits of animal verses plant based diets when considering muscle protein metabolism. Expert in skeletal muscle protein turnover, Stefan Gorrisen from McMaster University, Canada, will draw comparisons between the nutritional properties of animal and plant proteins in relation to preserving muscle mass with advancing age and how combining protein sources could provide a more balanced amino acid profile.

Evidence from animal models can be used to investigate the interaction between nutrition and exercise for metabolic health in humans, particularly in terms of promoting non-pharmacological, diet and exercise-based treatments of insulin resistance. Lessons learned from equine models will be used as a basis for a comparative, multi-species discussion led by European Specialist in Veterinary Clinical and Comparative Nutrition, Professor Pat Harris,WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition.  Consideration will then be given to human models looking at the mechanistic explanation of the role of diet and exercise in improving glucose control and lipid metabolism.

Scientific organiser for the conference, Dr Oliver Witard, Senior Lecturer at the University of Stirling, highlights the importance of nutrition and exercise for health identifying why the organisers have brought together experts in the field to discuss the evidence linking physical activity and nutrition to health outcomes:

‘The main aim of the conference programme was to bring together global experts and opinion leaders in the field to explore the interaction between nutrition and exercise for health.  Diet and exercise are vitally important to human health and performance across the lifespan. During the conference in March we will review the latest scientific evidence which demonstrates the interaction between nutrition and exercise in terms of improving metabolic health, optimising performance and preventing disease.”