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Diet vs Exercise: Which Matters Most for Weight Loss?

Diet vs Exercise: Which Matters Most for Weight Loss” by Health Promotion Board, 9 Mar 2021, www.healthhub.sg

Which really leads to weight loss? Exercise or diet? If you need to shed some kilos, read on! Going from overweight to maintaining a healthy weight can lower your risk for diabetes.

Exercise vs Diet: What Matters Most?

At first glance, dieting seems to be the obvious answer if we want to lose weight.

We gain weight when we take in more calories than we need. Therefore, reducing calorie intake would naturally be the key to weight loss.

However, this is usually not sustainable. After some time, people tend to revert to their old habits. Even worse, the sense of deprivation leads them to eat more, causing them to put back all the weight they had initially lost.

Exercise Is More Important Than Diet for Weight Loss?

If dieting alone doesn’t lead to sustainable weight loss, would exercise solely do the trick?

Not quite, according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. As part of the study, researchers from Arizona State University in the United States enlisted 81 overweight women to join a fitness programme.

During the three-month long study, the women engaged in treadmill workouts three times a week, but their eating habits were not monitored.

Three months later, 70% of the women gained some fat mass during the programme, despite their increased activity.

While the study could not conclude the exact reasons for the weight gain, researchers believe that the participants who gained weight consumed more food and increased their calorie intake. This was because they believed that they had burned enough kilocalories to justify the extra food.

Exercise and Diet to Keep the Weight Off in the Long Term

In short, the safest and most sustainable way to reduce weight is a combination of caloric restriction and regular exercise in the long term.

Energy Expenditure and Calorie Intake

The total number of calories you burn for energy each day is your total daily energy expenditure. In order to lose weight, the amount of calories you burn should be higher than your calorie intake.

By eating the same amount while exercising more, a sustainable energy deficit (where the calories consumed are less than calories burnt) can be created. Regular exercise can also help increase your metabolic rate so you’ll burn those calories a lot more efficiently.

Just a daily energy deficit of 500 to 1,000 kcal will allow you to lose between 0.5 kg to 1 kg per week. So if your daily calorie intake is about 1,500, you should try to burn around 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day through your daily activities, if you are looking to lose some excess fat and weight.

Make Good Food Choices

Your diet is also crucial. Keep in mind My Healthy Plate guidelines: fill a quarter of your plate with wholegrains, a quarter with proteins, and the remaining half with the recommended two servings of fruits and vegetables per day for a well-balanced meal.
Once your meals are settled, it is time to work up a sweat by engaging in regular exercise.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 150 to 250 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week would help you maintain a healthy weight. Anything more leads to weight loss. Moderate-intensity exercises should cause an increase in your breathing rate. You should be able to carry on a conversation but does not have enough breath to sing.

Pick a Suitable Activity

Working out can be tough on your body, especially if you are not used to it. The heavier you are, the more pressure you put on your lower limb joints.

Ease into a workout programme, perhaps in the pool which minimises the impact on your knees and joints. When you get more comfortable with exercise, try other activities such as jogging, brisk walking or cycling.

Diet and Exercise for Your Health

Even if weight management is not your goal, there are also many health benefits to a well-balanced diet and regular physical activity.

If you are overweight, you are at risk for pre-diabetes. But start on a combination of moderate physical activity and a sensible diet now, and you can lower your risk for diabetes and other diseases.

Do consult your doctor before starting any exercise regime, and practise caution when exercising. Remember, safety first!

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