Diet Versus Exercise – Which Is More Important?

Diet Versus Exercise – Which Is More Important?
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.

When it comes to weight loss and looking at diet versus exercise, which is more important? If you know where to focus your efforts, you should be able to see more effective results.

A couple of years ago I had a really stressful job. My role was to support 85 candidates running for the Green Party in a general election. I had to get them information and updates from the central campaign office, and help them with questions or issues as they came up.

It was a lot of fun, but it was definitely a lot of work.

One of the benefits of this job is that I could work on my own schedule. This also meant that I wound up working until midnight or later most days. I stopped keeping track of the hours I worked because it just scared me. I could get through because I knew it would all be over in a month.

That is when I started to enjoy jogging. I would jog before this, but it would be a struggle the whole way to keep myself motivated. Now – when I was facing a long, stressful day ahead and knew that this was the only time I would have for myself, I felt the freedom and energy of running.

Needless to say, I made it a priority to jog every single morning during the campaign. I felt fantastic, and found that by election day I had lost some weight. I never really knew whether it was from the jogging – or from not having much time to snack and eat.

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You hear all the time that healthy weight loss is reached through diet and exercise… but which one has more impact? The rule for losing weight is to eat less calories than you burn. So they can both have an effect. Diet plans control how many calories you eat, and exercise controls how many calories you burn.

Half an hour of exercise is a great way to burn more calories than you otherwise would. Here’s the calorie burn (approximate) of various exercises:

  • 30 min brisk walk (3mph) – 110 calories
  • 30 min jog (5mph) – 280 calories
  • 30 min cycle (under 10mph) – 140 calories
  • 30 min swim – 250 calories
  • 30 min rollerblade – 180 calories

In addition to the calories burned while actually exercising, strength training can actually speed up your metabolism so that you keep burning more calories after you stop. One study showed that strength training can increase your resting metabolic rate by up to 7%. If you trained enough to speed up your metabolism for the whole day, that would be 140 calories for a 2000 calorie diet.

So yeah, exercise is effective at increasing your calorie burn for the day. The trouble is, it is so easy to wipe out all that hard work with a small snack.

Calorie content of various foods:

  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter has 188 calories.
  • 1 Twix bar (1/2 a package) has 145 calories.
  • 1 oz (28g) of plain tortilla chips has 138 calories.
  • Half a plain bagel has 215 calories.
  • A grande caffe latte with nonfat milk at Starbucks has 168 calories.

When you look at the numbers, keeping yourself to your healthy diet plan and not blowing calories away on treats is crucial for weight loss (and who really stops at half a pack of Twix or 1 oz of tortilla chips?) You also need to make sure that if you increase your level of exercise and calorie burn, you don’t balance it out by eating more food.

What weight loss comes down to is less calories in than calories out. How you make that equation work is up to you. If you find it easier to focus on lots of exercise to increase your calorie burn, go for it. If you find it easier to focus on controlling your eating habits, do that. If you haven’t looked at it yet, consider doing the 28 Day Healthy Meal Plan. I’m getting lots of amazing feedback on that.

A healthy diet and regular exercise will both give you so many benefits beyond just weight loss. Work on both of them, but think about which is going to be more effective for you in achieving your goals, and put more energy and attention into that.

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