Exercise is always more important than dieting (but doing both is best)

I was offended when a respected US magazine recently hit my Facebook feed suggesting "back to the couch you go, because running isn't helping you lose weight." Respectfully, I call BS to that conclusion.

The crux of the article was an argument echoed at many smoothie bars across the globe: should you count calories or burpees? What's more important for weight loss? Food or fitness?

What the experts said

Nick Green, sports nutritionist from Bupa, said "…in most cases nutrition plays a big role with weight loss. Most people are familiar with the phrase 'you can't outrun a bad diet'".

Alexandra Kookarkin, exercise physiologist and nutritionist, explained that "exercise has a huge role in fat burning, but it's the diet that will ultimately make or break the weight loss success."

Samantha Gemmell, nutritionist, replied "In my experience, diet is definitely more essential than exercise ... It's a lot easier to eat a few too many kilojoules than it is to exercise them off. Most people underestimate their food intake and overestimate the energy they burn by exercising."

Sharon Thurin, founder of Slim Secrets, said "…without a doubt what we eat is far more important from a weight loss perspective than exercise."

"If we change what we eat…"

Nutritionist Fiona Tuck broke it down like this: "[to burn off]…40 minutes of intense weight lifting equals two beers; 20 minutes brisk walk equals one glass of champagne; 45 minutes brisk walk is one doughnut.

"Weight loss comes down to 80 per cent what we eat and 20 per cent how much we exercise. If we change what we eat we will lose weight, it is that simple."

And Dr. Karen Phillip, counselling psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist and naturopathic nutritionist explained "I work with many individuals in their pursuit of a slimmer body. The main issue is diet … I have many people who have done hypnotherapy choosing correct foods, eating smaller portions and losing weight. No gym required."


Lastly, GP Nick Tellis threw in his two cents, "when weight loss is your aim, diet is your game."

Contrary to popular opinion

The professionals have had their say – it's diet, diet, and more diet. I disagree not to play devil's advocate but because I believe in a 50 per cent diet and 50 per cent exercise commitment when it comes to weight loss and a new, happier, and healthier lifestyle. Exercise is a key element in weight loss, and it's a key element in keeping the weight off.

Colleagues might say I'm putting the cart in front of the horse. Fine. But there's a reason why I support exercise as a weight loss (and more) tool.

It's because of happiness. Take an overweight person who adores food. Now put them on a plan to eat less, and watch their mood, life, and energy sour. Sure, that crash diet might have them on a weight loss path, but I'd rather have them eat more, and have the caloric deficit come via exercise – they'll be fuller, happier, and healthier.

Rethinking your habits

We've got to stop with the laziness. Sure, it's easier to give up 500 calories of fizzy drink per day than it is to burn off 500 calories – we love to do less because we're lazy. Tell an overweight individual weight loss is 80/20 food-fitness, and guess what's going to be neglected?

The reality is the body wants, needs, and loves to move. Exercise improves energy throughout the day while burning calories. It's a weight loss fact. We need a global "Get the Bum off the Couch and Move" movement.

Lies your diet told you

In 2007 UCLA conducted a rigorous study of dieting, and their conclusion was this: Diets don't work.

"You can initially lose five to 10 per cent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back," said Traci Mann, UCLA associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study. "We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more."

Get up and go

It also because of science. Exercising reduces stress and anxiety while increasing self-confidence. It increases strength and flexibility. Exercise reduces heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Need more benefits? Better bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, sleep, and appearance.

Because of resting metabolism. People who exercise with intensity at their goal weight are able to eat more because their bodies continue to burn calories even while resting, improving what's known as the Resting Metabolic Rate. They don't put on weight.

However those just coming off a diet? Their RMR is unmoved because of too little activity. A bit of naughtiness goes straight to the waistline as they revert back to their original weight. Exercising as a habit breeds weight loss, then guarantees weight maintenance.

Agree to agree (and disagree)

Of course I agree with my colleagues from above that healthy diet is an integral component of weight loss. And hell, maybe we've all got it all wrong and built a mega-billion industry around it. The issue isn't weight loss – its longevity.

But people who are physically active tend to be healthier and live longer. The heart and body does not like weight in later years, and our bodies were meant to move with speed, power, and strength – three things that exercise gives us. Don't just exercise for weight loss; exercise to live longer.

But food with no fitness? It's like Tim without Tams. Jekyll without Hyde, Bonnie without Clyde. Newman without Redford. A selfie without narcissism. Hamish without Andy. Bieber without talent.

Actually, I can imagine that last one. I just cannot imagine weight loss without exercise.

What do you think is more important? Diet or exercise? Tell us in the comments section below.

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his 'Cut The BS' diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

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