Restricting Calories or Increasing Exercise?
By: Aimen Jehangir
Globalization has led to the consumption of high-calorie, high fat/high sugar, nutrient-dense, and highly processed foods. As a result of the cost and availability of such food items, people tend to focus less on their diet and are opting for unhealthy food which is leading to obesity and other chronic diseases. According to WHO, in Pakistan alone about 25% of the population is overweight, 4% is obese and about 42% of deaths are caused by developing chronic diseases. Obesity in turn is leading to unhealthy weight loss choices such as being too restrictive of calories, trying weight loss shakes and teas, and over exercising to name a few.
Being from the health department, I get asked questions such as “I exercise so I don’t have to eat healthy, right?” or “I eat healthy so I don’t have to work out.” or “I’m eating less so I don’t have to go to the gym.” often. Some studies suggest that diet is more important for a healthy lifestyle while others say otherwise. But which one is more crucial? I will be digging deeper into this question in this article.
Benefits of diet:
They say ‘You are what you eat’. Everything you put in your body has beneficial and adverse effects. Good nutrition is the key to a healthy lifestyle and has countless benefits: it lowers the risk of chronic diseases, boosts immunity, aids in weight loss, helps in reducing stress, improves skin, teeth, and hair health, strengthens bones, and delays aging, etc.
Both diet and exercise are important for weight loss; however, losing weight by decreasing calorie intake is more feasible and practical due to our busy and sedentary lifestyle. Ever heard of the 80/20 rule? Yes, weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise because exercise alone does not lead to a healthy weight loss. Including all food groups, such as vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins, and whole wheat products, in your diet along with cutting down 500 calories daily from your required calories is the best way to lose weight healthily.
It’s a common notion that physical activity tends to increase hunger which in turn leads to a bigger appetite affecting the impact of exercise over time. So, for the exercise to work well, one has to ensure the intake of the right amounts of calories.
Benefits of exercise:
People focus mostly on the diet when losing weight or combating a disease that they forget how important exercise is. Exercise helps in losing weight while it also fights off the risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, cancer, depression as well as anxiety. Exercise is also beneficial in improving the overall energy and mood of a person, builds bones and muscles, reduces pain, helps with sleep, and improves memory.
Exercise is as important as diet in a person’s health journey. It is important to note that exercise doesn’t only mean hitting the gym; it also includes walking, running, swimming, cycling, jogging, dancing, etc.
Physical inactivity has been known to be one of the main causes of obesity. Our body consumes energy in the form of calories and expands energy in digestion, exercise, and maintaining other body functions. Regular exercise expends energy as it increases the metabolic rate of the body helps burn more calories and aids in weight loss. Exercise helps in burning fat and building muscle and bone density; diet alone is not able to do that.
One doesn’t have to go to the gym every day to see the benefits of the exercise; some moderate-intensity exercise for 30-40 minutes a day along with an active lifestyle is enough to achieve your goal.
The bottom line is consuming a healthy and well-balanced diet is the key to a long and healthy life. Combining calorie restriction along with regular exercise is the best way to achieve your desired results. However, it can only be done by following an 80/20 or 75/25 rule, as Talbott said, “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet”.