As we push ourselves to become healthier, many of us find it more manageable to address either diet or exercise rather than both. We may go on an aggressive exercise program or we may adopt a specific diet, but to do both seems too much.
A recent study came out in Journal of American Medical Association this month which addressed the question of whether diet or exercise improves exercise capacity. There were several results of the study that were notable, but the one I’d like to focus on is what they saw with weight loss.
The researchers studied 100 people and placed some on a diet only, some on an exercise program only, some on both, and some on neither. The people who did diet alone saw a body weight decrease of 3%. Those who did exercise alone saw a body weight decrease of 7%. Those who did both saw a body weight decrease of 10%.
It seems clear that combining exercise and diet is the most effective way to lose weight. It is also the best way to maintain weight loss. But making both of those changes in our lives sometimes seems like too much to take on so we pick one, or we become so overwhelmed that we just do neither.
If that sounds like you, try a different approach. Rather than starting a diet that is the complete opposite of how you usually eat and starting Cross Fit 7 days a week, sit down and make a realistic plan for yourself. Make a list of the dietary changes you would like to make and rank them in order of most important. Then choose one of them to start with. Then take a good hard look at your weekly schedule. Could you find 30 minutes a day to do some exercise? No? How about 5 days a week? Still too much? Try 20 minutes 3 days a week. Anything you do is better than nothing. Find what is reasonable and actually doable for you.
Don’t worry that small changes won’t produce big effects. Something like getting off liquid calories like sweet tea or soda can save you hundreds of calories every day. Combining that with, say, playing basketball with your teenager three times a week can be the winning combination to affecting both energy in and energy out and will likely be the first steps in a long path of health. Onward!