How Diet and Exercise Affect Health and Chronic Conditions

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  • 0:01 Body as Machine
  • 0:56 Diet
  • 4:37 Exercise
  • 6:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

Here we will discuss how the elements of diet and exercise can reduce the risk or the severity of a chronic condition or disease. We look specifically at diet and how it can be great, good, okay or terrible. Exercise can be excessive, incorrect, correct or absent.

Body as Machine

A living body is a lot like a machine. It takes in fuel and oxygen, burns it to create heat and energy and outputs various things, like ceramic mugs, homework assignments and waste products. Some people have better-running machines than other people. This can be a result of training, such as a human body trained to run really fast, jump really high or catch a football really well. The human body machine is affected by all kinds of things, like the training we mentioned but also by the work we make it do and the fuel we put in it.

Let's look at how diet and exercise influence a person's chronic disease, sometimes referred to as a chronic condition, which is a condition that develops more slowly and typically worsens over time. Examples of this include arthritis, heart disease and cancer.


When we discuss diet, we primarily mean food and drink regularly consumed. This isn't your weight loss diet, but we will discuss that in a moment. In fact, let's start off at the optimum end and then work our way to a more destructive diet.

In terms of prevention, eating right can actually prevent several types of cancers, diabetes to some degree and various heart and cardiovascular problems. Eating right means avoiding the high-fat, high-salt, oh-so-delicious foods. It means a diet high in fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced, junk-food-sitting-on-the-table lifestyle, the optimum is not always an option.

Above average is next. Here we have people who are eating right, getting the necessary nutrition but spoil themselves with bad food sometimes. They eat occasionally at the wrong places, like McDonald's, where the meat additives have been noted as possessing addictive qualities. But they don't eat that too often and keep it under control. Here we will begin to see some of the issues with chronic diseases pop up. Depending on their lifestyle choice, there may be an increased likelihood of specific types of cancers, like stomach, GI tract or liver, or there is an increased chance of diabetes or heart disease.

The shift into the average category and below is in intensity and degree. The average individual in the United States is consuming excess calories, and their food is packed with chemical additives. Here the damage to the body has been significantly increased, leading to a higher probability of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. We know the foods of the average U.S. citizen are causing the problems because countries where these food options are much more limited don't see the same rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

The last area we will discuss is under the domain of unhealthy diets. The most common of which is the unhealthy diet in an attempt to lose weight. The unhealthy diet often borders on anorexia nervosa, which is an intensive restriction on food due to a fear of gaining weight, and bulimia nervosa, which is a cycle of food binging and purging behavior. The exact nature of unhealthy dieting depends on the specific type. Common issues often include heart and GI tract strain and damage, but various cancers may come up as well if diet pills or substances are used.

Anorexia has been linked to damage everywhere in the body. If left untreated, it will lead to death. I imagine chronic disease as like a house with a crooked roof. It's a problem and will likely get worse if not fixed, but it isn't going to kill you immediately. Anorexia is sort of like lighting that building on fire. It's going to make everything worse.

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