Want to lose a few pounds? Should you diet or exercise the pounds off? It is a given that for optimal health, both diet and exercise are important.  That being said, if you have a specific goal, one might be more effective that the other.

Goals:

If you want to drop some weight, cutting calories is the most effective way to achieve that goal.  If you only exercise you won’t lose much weight.  And if you believe the recent hubbub about participants in spinning classes bulking up,  you might even gain weight due to an increased appetite. It is a lot easier to cut 500 calories from your daily diet than it is to burn that number of calories through exercise.

If you want to increase your energy level, focusing on the quality of what you are eating is the most effective way to achieve that goal.  Exercise does make you feel energized right after the fact, but eating ‘cleanly’ puts a spring in your step all day long. Eating well keeps your blood sugar levels on an even keel.

While this might not be breaking news to some of you, it did help me reevaluate my expectations and be clearer about my goals.  I will no longer kill myself at the gym and then be disappointed when the weight doesn’t fall off.  However, I will push myself at the gym for other important reasons.

In sum, a study done by the Loyola University Health System found that “dietary intake may be more important than energy expenditure level for weight loss”.

Before you hang up your sneakers, let’s extoll all the virtues of exercise.  First, exercise helps us keep the weight we’ve taken off from coming back.  We know all the other benefits of exercise including strengthening our bones and muscles, improving our mental health and mood, and reducing the risk of a long list of diseases.  So, once you lose the weight and look fabulous, if you exercise you’ll be able to enjoy it by living longer!

The bottom line:  If you want to fit into the dress you wore to prom and increase your zippiness, focus on and restrict what you eat.  That will be 90% of the weight loss battle.

If you want to keep the weight off, tone your muscles, reduce your risk of heart disease, improve your complexion, alleviate stress and anxiety, lower cholesterol, keep your mind sharp, increase your interest in sex, then put on those sneakers and get moving!

Sources:  To find out more information on this subject here are additional sources.

Mayo Clinic

Loyola University Health System

Women’s Health Magazine

New York Times