Diet Versus Exercise: Which Is More Effective For Losing Weight?

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Have you ever known someone who absolutely killed themselves in the gym, but never seemed to lose any weight? Have you been that person yourself?

It’s more common than you might think, and when it happens, it can be very frustrating and demoralizing for people who are trying to lose weight. Some people who experience this problem may conclude that exercise is pointless and they’re just genetically doomed to be fat.

Fortunately, this is not the case. New research shows that exercise on its own is often not enough to lose weight. It turns out that hitting the gym is much more effective when it’s complemented by a healthy diet. In fact, changing what you eat may be far more effective than the treadmill when it comes to shedding unwanted pounds.


The Research

It’s long been conventional wisdom for doctors and nutritionists alike that a sedentary lifestyle—that is, not getting enough exercise—is the primary cause of obesity.

While there’s some truth to this, more recent scientific findings indicate that obesity has a whole lot more to do with what we put into our bodies than what we do (or don’t do) with them.

A study conducted by researchers at Loyola University of Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine was performed to determine what the relationship was between levels of physical activity and weight gain.

Participants in the study included over 1,900 adults living in the United States, Jamaica, the Seychelles, Ghana and South Africa. At the start of the two-year study, the participants were asked to wear a special tracking device on their bodies for one week. This device monitored the amount of time they spent exercising. The purpose of doing this was to determine if these adults met the US Surgeon General’s physical activity recommendations, which call for a minimum of two and a half hours of moderate exercise per week.

The height, weight and body fat percentage of each participant was measured and recorded at the beginning of the study. Follow-up measurements were taken one year later, and a third time one year after that.

The purpose of all this was to determine whether or not the individuals who met the surgeon general’s guidelines for exercise experienced a greater amount of weight loss versus the ones who didn’t. The results were quite surprising.

It turned out that contrary to what most people would expect, the people who met the exercise guidelines were more likely to gain weight naturally than the ones who didn’t. What’s going on here?

It turns out that diet plays a bigger role in cutting unwanted pounds than exercise. If an obese person is hitting the gym, but still eating tons of surgery snacks and fast food, that person will have a harder time losing weight than an obese person who doesn’t exercise, but instead adopts a diet that cuts out those unhealthy items.

This isn’t to say that exercise is a waste of time—not at all! Even if isn’t as effective for weight loss as eating clean, exercise still helps build muscle mass and strength, improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure (cardio exercise specifically) and improves physical endurance. The endorphin rush that comes from a good workout can also fend off depression and help people feel more optimistic, happy and confident.

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Dieting for Weight Loss

The most important thing to do if you want to lose weight is to change your diet. The average person pays no attention to their diet at all and regularly feasts on processed foods, abominable unnatural fats (like trans fats) and takes in far more grams of sugar per day than the body is designed to handle. With the prevalence of such terrible and unhealthy foods everywhere we look and shop, it takes more effort to avoid them than to just give in and consume them without thinking. It’s no wonder that obesity and related conditions such as type 2 diabetes are so common.

Oftentimes, what you don’t eat has just as much effect on your health as what you do eat. Cut out artificial sugars (especially high fructose corn syrup) by doing away with candy, ultra-sugary juices, soft drinks and specialty coffees loaded with sugar. Eliminate vegetable oils like canola and soybean oil, as these are filled with awful fats.

Instead, eat plenty of lean proteins, green vegetables, fresh fruits and low-glycemic carbs, such as sweet potatoes and legumes. Healthy fats such as those found in olive oil, coconut oil and fish are also great for you. Eating healthy is a lifelong practice and you can spend all day reading articles about how to do it, but if you just follow the steps in these last two paragraphs, you’ll be doing better than the majority of the population.


READ ALSO: This Is What A Healthy Diet Can Do For You Infographic


Even if you can’t exercise regularly, follow these dietary guidelines and don’t be surprised if you end up going down a belt size or two.