Trying to avoid certain foods during a weight loss regimen is more difficult than one would imagine. Although a healthy combination of healthy eating and exercise is essential to successful, sustainable weight loss, research indicates that one component of the weight loss recipe holds more power: diet.
A 2015 study from the Loyola University Health System found that, contrary to popular belief, exercise does not help a person lose weight. The researchers responsible for that study examined the link between physical activity and obesity for years. They initially believed physical activity would serve as a catalyst for weight loss. But the evidence indicated otherwise. Exercise increases appetite, which can lead to increased caloric intake.
Furthermore, it seems that people who are extremely active burn a similar number of calories as moderately active people. Increasing physical activity to burn calories works up to a certain point, but eventually the body will adjust to keep energy use stable. According to Herman Pontzer of Hunter College at the City University of New York, who studied people in subsistence farming or hunter-gathering societies against those who live in developed countries who are more sedentary, less active people's energy expenditure increased alongside increases in physical activity. But at higher levels of activity, calorie burn plateaued. Pontzer found that the body works hard to maintain balance. Calories being burned by exercise will not equal the same level of calorie reduction offered by eating or drinking less.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus states that jogging or swimming laps for 30 minutes can burn as many as 350 calories. It's much easier to achieve the same calorie reduction by skipping two large sodas one day. That's important to note, as many people do not sustain the level of exercise needed for consistent weight loss.
According to the study "Prevalence of physical activity and obesity in US counties; A road map for action," published in "Population Health Metrics," the percentage of people who became more physically active in the United States increased between 2001 and 2009. However, this increase in level of activity was matched by an increase in obesity in almost all counties studied during the same period. The study showed that increased physical activity alone has a small impact on obesity.
But exercise should be not abandoned in favor of making smarter food choices. Physical activity is important for much more in terms of personal health. For example, physical activity reduces the burden of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Many studies and reviews also point out how physical activity can improve outcomes in pulmonary diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, neurological diseases, and depression.
Diet is an effective tool for weight loss, more so than even exercise. However, exercise remains an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Both diet and exercise are keys to long-term health.