Dieting And Exercise Exercise Or A Weight Loss Diet For Healthy Weight Loss

Losing weight requires burning more calories than you consume. This balance between calories in and calories out means that you have two potential approaches for weight loss: consuming fewer calories (dieting) and burning more calories (exercising). Both approaches can work, but the question is, which one tends to be more effective for most people?

Many medical studies compare the effects of dieting and exercise. These studies generally begin with a group of people who want to lose weight. The participants are placed on a weight loss diet, an exercise program or both. Researchers track their weight over time and may also look at other measures of health and quality of life. So, which is better? The answer partly depends on how you measure success.

Dieting For Initial Weight Loss

If your goal is to simply lose weight quickly, dieting is usually more effective than exercise alone. Imagine you want to lose around a pound per week. This rate of weight loss requires eliminating 500 calories a day by either eating 500 fewer calories or burning 500 more calories than you normally would. A 160-pound person who wants to burn away 500 calories through exercise would have to do nearly an hour of high-intensity aerobics or swimming or nearly two hours of walking at a brisk pace each day. Taking on that level of additional activity often requires a slow build up over several weeks, which delays weight loss goals. Eating 500 fewer calories, however, requires no training at all.

Exercise For Weight Loss Maintenance

A weight loss diet may produce quicker results than an exercise program, but many studies indicate that exercise helps people keep off the weight. Remember the 500 calories a day that you need to eliminate in order to lose a pound per week? Many people have trouble with the idea of staying on a low calorie diet every day for the rest of their lives. Ultimately, dieting gets more difficult over time. Exercise, however, gets easier over time as your body gets stronger.

Consequently, the best approach for sustainable, healthy weight loss is a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Dieting and Exercise For Disease Prevention

For many people, losing weight is not just about looking better–it’s part of a larger goal to get healthier. If you are trying to lower your blood pressure, strengthen your heart or improve your cholesterol numbers–as well as lose weight–exercise needs to be a part of your life. Furthermore, your exercise program should go hand-in-hand with a diet that has an appropriate number of calories and is also rich in healthy foods and low in nutritionally-empty, unhealthy ones.

References

Foster-Schubert, K., Alfano, C., Duggan, C., Xiao, L., Campbell, K., Kong, A., . . . McTieran, A. (2011). Effect of Diet and Exercise, Alone or Combined, on Weight and Body Composition in Overweight-to-Obese Postmenopausal Women. Obesity. (14 April epub).

Greenfield, P. (2010). Diet vs. exercise: The smackdown. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from http://health.yahoo.net/rodale/WH/diet-vs-exercise-the-smackdown

Hensrud, D. (2010). Which is better for weight loss – cutting calories or increasing exercise? Retrieved June 13, 2011, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-loss/AN01619

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/SM00109

Villareal, D., Chode, S., Parimi, N., Sinacore, D., Hilton, T., Armamento-Villareal, R., . . . Shah, K. (2011). Weight Loss, Exercise, or Both and Physical Function in Obese Older Adults. New England Journal of Medicine. 364:1218-1229.