Both Diet and Exercise are Important for Weight Loss Success

By , SparkPeople Blogger
In my experience with exercise and weight loss, you can't out-train a bad diet. If I wanted to lose weight, all of the exercise in the world didn't help if I wasn't paying attention to what I was eating. I know others who have chosen to lose weight through diet alone, instead of incorporating any exercise. They typically had more success than I did. But it seems that the most success (and the healthiest way to do it) is when you combine the two. New research analyzes these three methods of weight loss (exercise alone, diet alone, and a combo of the two) to compare the differences in progress.

The study, published in the online version of the journal Obesity, studied over 400 overweight and obese women ages 50 to 75. Participants were split into 4 groups: those who only exercised, those who only dieted, those who did both, and those who did nothing. At the end of the year-long intervention, the exercise-only group lost 2.4% of their starting weight. The diet-only group lost 8.5%, and those who dieted and exercised regularly lost an average of 10.8% of their starting weight.

In addition to helping with weight loss, exercise has other benefits like increased strength, cardiovascular fitness, etc. And you don't have to spend hours in the gym to make it worth the effort. Even small amounts of exercise can provide these benefits.

Study participants who had the most success not only combined diet and exercise, but kept a food journal and prepared more meals at home instead of eating out. Although these findings might not be revolutionary, I think they reinforce the importance of a well-rounded program when trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Interested in more tips related to weight loss? Check out 9 Cold, Hard Truths Weight Loss Truths.

What do you think? When it comes to your personal weight loss progress, what combination of diet and exercise has worked best for you?

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I am learning to find a balance between both. Report
Both work best for me. Report
The "cleaner" I eat, while maintaining the adequate calorie intake combined with exercise , the better my results .... Success keeps me motivated! Report
I try telling people at the gym this all the time when they ask how I lost so much weight. You can bust your but at the gym all day long but if you don't change your eating habbits you will never see the results you are working so hard for. Report
i guess i am the odd one out ... The scale doesn't shift if i focus on food alone .... i did an experiment, i ate around 2700-3000 calories a day for a month .... then i ate around 1500 for a month .... the scale didn't budge, either way ....

The only way i lost 25 pounds before was exercise ..... Sigh! ..... i have been eating so well for almost 4 months now but the damn scale doesn't shift ..... carefully tracking every thing .... making healthy, nutritious choices ..... but not a single pound loss .....i need to exercise..... if only i would stop making weak excuses not to do so. Report
You'd think this was rocket science or something... sigh. Report
They go together and compliment each other. That's definitely been my experience. [I've been on a plateau so long though that neither seem to work right now!] Report
I think diet is super important in addition to exercise. When I tried to lose weight in high school all I did was try to exercise a ton. But I had no idea what I was doing. I cut out my extra snacks and tried to eat more vegetables. But I really didn't understand how many extra calories I was truly eating until I got older and found SparkPeople. And I thought I was doing so well! But nope, I was eating 2-3 times the amount of calories I needed in a day. I truly think people don't realize what they are eating sometimes! Report
I spent many years of my life as a yo-yo dieter. What's difference this time around ? Why have I kept the weight off ? It's because I finally realized that what matters most is what I eat. The exercise is the icing on the cake. Pardon the pun. For too long, I used exercise as a means to be able to eat whatever I wanted. Well, that wasn't any good. Today, I am still mindful of what I eat because I know how important nutrition is to my health. Yes, I exercise regularly, but once again, without the healthy diet, the exercise just isn't enough.
I agree that diet and exercise is the best method. I have had better success this time around because I use both. I look better and feel so much better. Report
My own personal experience completely validates the results of this study. I think it's great to read something that is not necessarily new information but that makes you realize you are on the right path..or at least know what you need to do to suceed. Now to just DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Report
For two years, I putzed around, going to a trainer once a week for weight work, trying but not always succeeding in going to yoga once a week, and counting what walking I did as "cardio." I convinced myself I was exercising, but the pounds just kept piling up, and not at a steady rate. I'd stay the same weight for awhile and then suddenly shoot up 5 or 10 or 20 pounds in a short time. SP opened my eyes and made me assess what I was really doing with an honest eye. I discovered that cardio was really missing, and my hit-or-miss attempts to get strength training and flexibility were not really doing anything. Also, I really had no idea how many calories crossed my lips on the way to my hips, so logging my food really got my attention. The combination of real exercise and focusing on my eating habits has made a difference for me. Report
This is a very basic summary of what someone needs to do to lose weight. It's very simple, but not necessarily easy to actually do. Report
Because I'm short and, thanks to my job, largely sedentary during the work day, I *need* to exercise to ensure that I can lose weight and still eat enough. But focusing on weight alone is a mistake, IMHO. While it *is* possible to lose weight by diet alone (for most people), good health requires a steady dose of regular activity. Report
URBANMOMMY says that DIET is way more important than the exercise in getting to goal, and I would agree with that. Once the fat is off then doing exercise is a lot easier. Report
I have been here since 2007. I find both very important. I have reached my goal weight back in 2007. But then gained some weight back. It's important to watch what you eat. But exercise give you strength and a long life also. Working with many seniors and seeing and encoraging my own mother I find exercise most important in your later years especialy. I find seniors lose strength quickly in just a couple of days if they are not active. That is a major difference from a child just sitting around a couple of days. They can sit around and get moving like nothing. Seniors become very week in just a couple of days and can almost look to week to go on. My mother got this way, but I got her active before I felt it was too late and she is not perfect but much better. With my own exercise I feel like I have more energy and strength. Exercise helps with depression. Depression cause more negative activities. It also helps makes me feel good all over and also make me feel a sence of acomplishment in general. Plus making me more fit helps me acomplish things I love. Like hiking or anything outdoor and dancing. Report
I have been on SP 13 months. I reached my goal weight almost exactly a year into the program. I HATE to exercise and really did it consistently for only about 6 weeks. I regret not keeping up with it as I look good now at goal, but I know I would look even better and more toned had I exercised along the way. Now, after attaining goal, I am trying to motivate myself to get the cardio and ST in. I really don't want to lose much more (I'm already about 6 pounds below my goal) but I could stand to get toned and i know the only way to do that is to get off my dead rear end and DO IT! I did it for weight, now I need to motivate myself to move. Big sigh!! Report
We are interested in weight-loss success here, right?
Do you know that you have to walk 35 miles to lose one pound?
And not all of it will be fat weight.
Now, if you add on work, health, and possibly orthopedic challenges to those Declaration of Independence from Adiposity goals of liveliness, liberty and the pursuit of fitness you have your work cut out for you.
I, Tina, have just submitted my application to lead yet another team.
I am not beating around the bush.
This team is about what is euphemistically known as a "lifestyle change".
Realistically known as what goes in your mouth.
And I have no patience for fads ...
So, we'll see ... Report
the last few months tracking my eating wasnt very high on my priority list but i did exercised. And i maintained for those months. Now i track again and i am noticing i eat a lot less than without tracking and hopefully its paying off haha.
So yes its definatly BOTH.... you can exercise all you want but you need to adjust your kcal intake as well. Report
Of course, it works better with both, but it's all about calories in vs. calories out. I lost weight in the past by exercising...a lot! Then, I stopped. My diet changed only a little bit, so my weight loss was not sustainable. Now, I can't devote that much time to the gym. However, I'm still having difficulty with maintaining a diet that works for me. I know all about how I should eat, but when it comes down to a show down between me and a chocolate tart, the tart wins 80% of the time. For this to work, those stats. need to switch around. I need to win 80% of the time. Until I get the food under control, I'll not find weight loss success. Report
I need both, but its more 60/40 exericse to diet for me. No matter how few calories or how healthy the calories, my body will not give up the weight/fat if I don't exercise. My doc says my metabolism is very efficient and I need to boost it with exercise. Report
My fiance and I were actually debating this the other night. I'm trying to lose weight before our big day and he said I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I worked out to compensate for it.
I wholeheartedly disagreed.
I lost about 85 pounds last year, and I know that for my body what I EAT is way more impactful to my weight loss than how much I exercise. I can also attest to the fact that diet and exercise together are the most effective. Great article! Report
I have lost weightbefore via diet alone, but this time I have combined both. I feel better, look better, have a more toned body, and have so much more energy. A good, healthy, realistic diet combined with exercise on most days of the week has proven to be my key to success. Report
I would have to say 90/10 has worked for me. Report
I'd say for me its been about 60/40 with food/exercise. BOTH SO IMPORTANT Report
I agree- I have lost and gained many pounds over the years . This time , the time that is going to end the cycle of regaining it back... began with mainly exercise an small changes in my diet - I was able to loose almost 10% of my body weight this way and hit a plateau.. then I stepped up my exercise and added tracking all my food intake on Spark and was able to break through the plateau and begin to loose again.. so my experience definitely supports the combined approach as the most effective. I have been doing it now for long enough that is has become more of a lifestyle for me that I feel I will continue to sustain. Report
I completely agree with this study. I have tried dieting all of these ways and found that when I diet and exercise, not only do I lose more weight but I lose it faster. I also found that the weight stays off. Report
I believe those stats speak for themselves. My personal experience would seem to be in line with these numbers. I don't necessarily diet but choose to eat healthy. I did give up a lot of things. I haven't had a "soft drink" in over two years and actually prefer water. Other small steps include cutting back considerably on red meat; emphasis on salads, replacing butter with olive oil, etc. These are not really big sacrifices for me as I long ago found beauty in southeast asian spices which not only taste good but have beneficial medicinal properties, i.e.: garlic, ginger, capsicum, etc..... Report
I agree with the study. Diet is a big part of losing weight. I find if I only exercise I don't lose any weight. But when I'm not watching what I eat I tend to eat more calories then I could ever exercise off. Report
Both is definitely the way to go. I have tried the diet alone approach, when I was doing Medifast, and although the weight was coming off at a record pace, it was not a realistic approach to weight loss, which is why after life got in the way, I gained all 25 pounds back in half the time it took to take it off. Slow and steady wins the race, and diet and exercise is the way. Report
Definitely both. I think the study proves the prevailing wisdom - diet is probably the most important thing to alter for weight loss, but exercise is obviously an important supplement and it's critical for the "non weight loss" benefits for your health as well. Good post. I'm glad to see a well-done study that shows things so clearly. Report
I feel like my lifestyle burns enough calories! So I opt out of the cardio exercise and focus on strength such as ab workouts. Just eating better and consuming less calories works for me!!! I have lost nine pounds since april 14th!!! Report
The best move I ever made was hiring a trainer (xmas gift from my wife - not too subtle a hint). He has worked with me on both diet (a key component as you have all said below - if the trainer doesn't discuss diet, you've got the wrong trainer) and the exercize program to the point were I feel better then I ever have in my life (and look better too). I weigh now what I did freshman year of high school!

He is having me do extensive core workouts (amazing what your body weight can do) and dumbell workouts that still focus on the core muscle group. A lot of the exercizes he has me do can be found on the Sparks People page.

If you have the time (and money) this is an amazing way to jump start your weight loss program and feel GREAT about yourself!

Dave Report
My experience is validated by the study's findings. Excercise alone does virtually nothing. Proper diet on its own is effective and both combined is the most effective. I think it is really interesting to point out the variance between excercise alone and diet alone is the greatest. Adding excercise to proper diet helps, but it isn't as significant of a variance. In my opinion, "It's all about the food". Report
Yes, HYEGEEK, that was my story. I used to become so hungry after I had exercised and would eat too much of the wrong thing. The hunger has not gone away, but I make better food choices now. It's working! Report
Most definitely both! You can't work out enough to work off as much as you can so easily eat, so diet has to be addressed. For me, on days when I get up and work out, I have already invested in my goals and am much more likely to stay with my eating plan. They reinforce and strengthen each other. SparkGuy's concept of upward spirals is in play here. Report
I definitely agree that exercise alone won't lead to success. All it will do is make you hungry and if you have bad eating habits, they will kick in big time. Report
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