What’s More Important: Diet or How Much You Exercise?

You have probably wondered at some point in your life, is diet more important than exercise or does exercise trump diet. I think the question that you first need to ask yourself is: “What is your main outcome or goal?” If your answer is strictly weight loss, both diet and exercise are important but the focus placed on diet is slightly higher. If you’re looking to just maintain a healthy lifestyle then you need to consistently monitor and focus on both. Remember, you can’t manage something if you don’t measure it. Finally, if you’re someone who has lost a significant amount of weight and your goal is to maintain that weight loss for the rest of your life then both diet and exercise are your best friends.

One of the best research-based organizations that looks at these types of questions and more is the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). The NWCR is the brain-child of Rena Wing, PhD, from Brown University Medical School and James Hill, PhD, from the University of Colorado. The NWCR “provides information about the strategies used by successful weight loss maintainers to achieve and maintain long-term weight loss.” The NWCR is currently tracking over 10,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and, most importantly, have kept it off for long periods of time.

NWCR members have lost an average of 72.6 pounds and maintained the loss for more than 5 years. “To maintain their weight loss, members report engaging in high levels of physical activity (≈1 h/day/walking), eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet, eating breakfast regularly, self-monitoring weight, and maintaining a consistent eating pattern across weekdays and weekends.”

What should help clear up this debate is the fact that only 1 percent of the huge NWCR database (>10,000 subjects) have been successful at keeping their weight off with exercise alone. About 10 percent of the subjects have been successful with weight-loss maintenance by focusing on diet alone. More than 89 percent of the subjects have been successful because of BOTH diet and exercise modifications.

Your best bet is to spend quality time at the gym a few times a week and remember to challenge yourself when you’re moving through your paces. Stay active throughout the week and especially during the weekends. Focus on eating clean, healthy foods, avoiding highly processed foods while watching the added sugar in everything you eat. Finally, know that diet and exercise are your best choices to help get you there and once you’ve reached your goals, will help keep you there!


Wing RR, Hill JO. Successful weight loss maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr 2001;21:323–41.

Wing RR, Phelan S. Long-term weight loss maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 82(1): 222S-225S.

How Diet and Exercise Helps You Fight Disease

There are days where you may wonder – does all the time I spend on exercising and attention I give to my diet even matter? Will I receive health benefits even though the bathroom scale, at times, may not change and my expectations are rarely met?

There is plenty of evidence that shows diet and exercise does in fact have a positive association with various health outcomes. They can help fight off or retard many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Photo Credit: http://johnfawkes.com/

New research out of UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior has demonstrated that both diet (a Mediterranean diet) and physical fitness can determine whether or not you’ll be a victim of the disease. The study has shown that:

“healthy diet, regular physical activity, and a normal body mass index–also known as a BMI, or weight-to-height ratio–can actually reduce the incidence of protein build-ups correlated with onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

There are around 5.2 million people in the United States that currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and an estimated $200 billion is spent on trying to cure this condition annually. The research from UCLA and other research groups proves, rather unsurprisingly, that “prevention and a healthy lifestyle are actually far more effective than reactive action to disease.”

As you get ready to enter another new year, take stock in the fact that the time and attention spent on your exercise and diet will, in the long run, will pay back strong dividends.

8 Tips for Maintaining Weight Loss Based on a 20-Year National Study

To learn more about the science of weight loss, researchers founded the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) as a long-term study project back in 1994. There are currently more than ten thousand people who have joined in the project. Researchers compiled self-report data from subjects who have successfully maintained weight loss and the finding were published in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners.

The results from of the data showed that 90 percent of NWCR participants were still maintaining at least 10 percent weight loss 10 years after losing weight. These people had various ways to achieve that, but they also used eight common strategies, including:

  1. They eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet primarily prepared at home. On average, they consumed 1,306 calories per day, with only 24.3 percent of calories from fat.
  2. They eat breakfast. Studies have shown that regular breakfast is associated with low BMI.
  3. They have diet rules for weekdays, weekends, and holidays. Their food intake is very consistent from day-to-day.
  4. They exercise about 1-hour a day. About 75 percent of people expended at least 1000 calories/week in physical activity. Walking is the most common exercise used.
  5. They regularly drink low-calorie or no-calorie beverages, especially water. Only 10 percent of people drink sugar-sweetened beverages.
  6. They weigh themselves on a regular basis. Regular self-weighing may serve as an early alarm for weight regain.
  7. They spend limited time on watching TV. Most of them watch TV fewer than 10 hours a week.
  8. They sleep 7 or more hours a night. Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours are more likely to be obese.
Image Credit: http://backtoedenwithliz.com

We know from research and our personal experiences that there are no “one size fits all” strategies for successful weight loss maintenance but these eight behavioral tips can be used as tools to develop a customized approach to maintain a healthy weight.


Raphaelidis L. (2016). Maintaining Weight Loss: Lessons from the National Weight Control Registry. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 12: 286-287. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2016.01.009


The National Weight Control Registry, Providence (RI).


Enough with the Statement that Exercise Does not Help with Weight Loss

A few times a year we see some news publication or media outlet come out with a bold statement that aerobic exercise in one form or another is useless when it comes to weight loss. First off, even if you never lost weight with regular exercise, the (many) positive outcomes associated with regular exercise, still far out way not exercising at all and yes, even if weight loss never occurs.

Photo credit: http://www.bodyrock.tv

A recent issue of TIME (July, 2016) looked at the “new” reasons to exercise which I like because it takes the focus off weight loss. In the article, author, Alexandra Sifferlin, shows the research and hits on the following point:

  • Exercise improves memory.
  • Exercise increases energy – a study out of the University of Georgia, saw “a 166% increase in self-reported energy in men who exercised on bikes for 20 minutes.”
  • Exercise may keep depression at bay.
  • Exercise can curb food cravings.
  • Exercise can reduce the risk of serious cancers – data from the National Cancer Institute showed individuals who are more active than their sedentary counterparts had a “20% lower risk of certain serious cancers.”
  • Exercise has mind-body benefits.

Let’s face it, many of us know that we can run a few miles a day for weeks and even months at a time and sometimes by the end, lose minimal or no weight at all. We may think all the hard work and time commitment was a big waste of our time.  If you start thinking out of the box and focus on the additional benefits of exercise rather than a primary outcome all the time (i.e. weight loss) you’ll be better off in the long run.

Professor Herman Pontzer of City University of New York (CUNY), stated: “Exercise is really important for your health. That’s the first thing I mention to anyone asking about the implications of … exercise. There is tons of evidence that exercise is important for keeping our bodies and minds healthy, and this work does nothing to change that message. What our work adds is that we also need to focus on diet, particularly when it comes to managing our weight and preventing or reversing unhealthy weight gain.”

Dr. Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England has stated: “Being physically active is good for your physical and mental health and also helps to maintain a healthy weight. However, the evidence shows the most effective way of losing weight is to reduce calorie intake through a healthy balanced diet.”

Oh and by the way researcher Rena Wing, PhD, from Brown University and her colleagues at the National Weight Control Registry have followed a large group of subjects (>10,000) who have lost a significant amount of weight, and more importantly, have kept it off for many years. Registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and have kept it off for 5.5 years. One of their secrets is exercising (walking) for an hour a day!


Exercise alone won’t cause weight loss, study shows, The Guardian, January 2016.

The new reasons to exercise, Alexandra Sifferlin, Time Magazine, July, 2016.

Is All Your Technology Helping You Stay Active?

We are so preoccupied at times with all our technology. Constantly on our phones even during sporting events or with a group of friends at dinner. We spend hours sitting, hunched-over in front of our computers or looking at our tablets for the majority of the day.

Granted there are some great health and fitness apps, digital gyms and other forms of technology that help individuals stay active. There are also products, like your Fitbit or the Apple watch you’re contemplating on purchasing, that could potentially help to increase activity levels as well.

The take away here is to start using a small portion of each day to “digital detox” and use that time rather than sitting and “turning off” your body, focus instead of  engaging your mind, body, spirit with a new activity without all the technology.

Here is an infographic titled The Data Never Sleeps by DOMO that I thought was amazing. It breaks down the use of technology by the minute in a typical day. Take a moment and look at each individual category and add up the amount of time you spend doing each one during your typical day. These data points would be staggering if they were for a 24-hour period but I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around the fact that it’s for only 60-seconds!

So, take a break from all the emailing, FB, Tweeting, Instagraming and ruining your posture looking at your phone and computer all day. Get up and get out, and bring your kids along whenever possible, for at least 30-minutes of exercise a day and think about how you’re going to start moving more each day…your mind, body and spirit will love you for it!

Data Every Minute
Credit: DOMO. Erik Fitzpatrick licensed CC BY 2.0

Suggested Reading                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Here’s What A Constantly Plugged-In Life Is Doing To Kids’ Bodies by Lori Leibovich, Huffington Post.

Make Exercise Part of Your Preventative Medicine Plan

Source: http://uspm.com/why-the-preventive-plan

We often forget about what goes on “behind the scenes” as a direct result of the exercise we do over the course of a typical week. We may think if we are not losing weight that all our time spent on exercise is just a waste of time and why even bother. It might be time to take a look at exercise from a different perspective such as a preventative measure or simply your daily dose of preventive medicine.

Preventive medicine refers to measures taken to prevent diseases, (or injuries) rather than curing them or treating their symptoms (source: Wikipedia).

  • Look at exercise as a way to PREVENT WEIGHT GAIN.
  • Exercise keeps your metabolism “revving” as you age.
  • It not only keeps your muscles strong but strengthens your bones, ligaments and tendons as well.
  • Think of exercise as heart health.
  • If you’re stressed or depressed, think of exercise as way to “release the tension.”
  • Every time you exercise think of it as protection: keeping your immune system strong.
  • Each time you exercise your extending your life expectancy.
  • Regular exercise will keep the incidence of arthritis, CVD, diabetes and breast cancer down.
  • Movement will help with back pain.
  • Keeping yourself fit and healthy as you age will help in the big picture of rising health care cost.
  • Exercise helps with everything from balance to cognition (as you age).
  • Think of exercise as a memory booster.

We have our own reasons for why we continue to exercise: vanity, feel healthy, lose weight, prevent injuries, to stay functional as we age, or maybe for the social aspect. Whatever your reasons might be, remember, that there are many benefits that equate directly to the duration and intensity of what your doing each time you exercise. Make regular exercise the only pill you take.

Research Shows Exercise Can Erase the Effects of a Sugar Binge

Source: http://huffingtonpost.com

With the average person eating about 150 pounds of sugar a year, the likelihood of going on a sugar binge once in a while is very likely, especially when you eat one too many dark chocolate bars. What if additional exercise, however, could erase the effects of that sugar binge from the dark chocolate you just ate?

Well, you may be happy to hear that new research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggest that exercise may blunt the negative effects of sugar. Researchers had adult subjects consume an additional 75 grams of fructose a day that came from soda. Subjects were then asked to be highly active or very inactive for separate two week periods. During their active period they used a pedometer and walked 12,500 steps a day (about 6 miles) while during their inactive period they decreased  their step count to 4,500 steps a day. Blood samples following a meal showed the inactive participants with high fructose intakes had 88% higher triglyceride levels and signs of higher inflammation. When subjects were active these markers did not exist.

“When you consume extra fructose, your liver responds by releasing fats into your blood stream. When you’re active your body increases the production of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase and this enables your body to absorb those fats that are circulating in your bloodstream and then use them for energy” according to Amy Bidwell, PhD, co-author of the study and an assistant professor at SUNY Oswego.

It is still very important to keep yourself on a “budget” to help monitor your daily added sugar but now you know you have a little room to play with and not feel guilty if you go on that sugar binge, as long as you’re highly active that day.

Source: Can Exercise Erase a Sugar Binge? by Jessica Migala.

For additional reading on this topic see Gretchen Reynolds NY Times blog post on How Sugar Affects the Body in Motion.


The Many Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

Exercise has long been believed to be a great health benefit aside from just improving cardiovascular strength and controlling weight. It has also been shown to improve a person’s overall mood and help fight a wide range of other diseases including depression, allergies and IBS. Of course exercise does not actually cure diseases, but research has determined that the way the body reacts to exercise can help combat illness.

Recently, some studies have shown a link between adults getting regular exercise (i.e., thirty to sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day) can significantly reduce one’s chances of developing certain types of cancer including colon and breast cancer. Exercise can also be quite beneficial for people who have already developed cancer or pre-cancerous tumors. Health care professionals believe there are certain reasons for this phenomenon. For example, exercise releases a large amount of positive endorphins in the body that can help increase one’s positive mood and reduce any pain that was being felt. Additionally, being physically fit gives the body more strength to fight off disease.

source: http://www.aicr.org

It is important to understand that though the national guidelines recommend a fairly ambitious plan of exercising close to an hour every day, even a small amount of light exercise can make a difference in a person’s life and help fight off disease. This is especially important for people who already feel very sick or have trouble breathing or moving, like when receiving mesothelioma treatment. Simply walking around for a few minutes everyday can help a person build physical strength and also improve a person’s mood and outlook on life. Modern medicine is finally beginning to embrace the idea that a person’s mental state has a great impact on their physical state. Since exercise releases certain endorphins that create a natural “high”, the brain will help to body react more positively to traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Exercise has also been shown to help reduce the negative side effects that are often associated with these treatments.

For any person with higher risk factors for cancer or an existing cancerous tumor, they should talk to their doctors about how they should work exercise into their normal routine. Of course, during cancer treatment is not the ideal time to begin a rigorous exercise routine or intense training program. This is why it is important to work closely with a doctor to understand one’s physical limits and create a routine that meets their needs without introducing additional harm to their body. For a person that does not currently have cancer, this information can serve as another reminder of the overall benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and continuing to participate in some type of physical activity on a daily basis.

This guest post was written by David Hass, you can follow David’s posts at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance page. His goal is to help others going through their battle with cancer.

Genetic Pre-Disposition Toward Exercise and Mental Development May be Linked, MU Study Finds

University of Missouri researchers have previously shown that a genetic pre-disposition to be more or less motivated to exercise exists. In a new study, Frank Booth, a professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, has found a potential link between the genetic pre-disposition for high levels of exercise motivation and the speed at which mental maturation occurs.

For his study, Booth selectively bred rats that exhibited traits of either extreme activity or extreme laziness. Booth then put the rats in cages with running wheels and measured how much each rat willingly ran on their wheels during a six-day period. He then bred the top 26 runners with each other and bred the 26 rats that ran the least with each other. They repeated this process through 10 generations and found that the line of running rats chose to run 10 times more than the line of “lazy” rats.

images-2Booth studied the brains of the rats and found much higher levels of neural maturation in the brains of the active rats than in the brains of the lazy rats.

“We looked at the part of the brain known as the ‘grand central station,’ or the hub where the brain is constantly sending and receiving signals,” Booth said. “We found a big difference between the amount of molecules present in the brains of active rats compared to the brains of lazy rats. This suggests that the active rats were experiencing faster development of neural pathways than the lazy rats.”

Booth says these findings may suggest a link between the genes responsible for exercise motivation and the genes responsible for mental development. He also says this research hints that exercising at a young age could help develop more neural pathways for motivation to be physically active.

Dr. Frank Booth, University of Missouri

“This study illustrates a potentially important link between exercise and the development of these neural pathways,” Booth said. “Ultimately, this could show the benefits of exercise for mental development in humans, especially young children with constantly growing brains.”

Booth’s study, “Nucleus accumbens neuronal maturation differences in young rats bred for low versus high voluntary running behavior,” was published in the Journal of Physiology.

This guest blog post is from MU where Frank Booth, Ph.D, is a professor in the Department of Physiology in the MU School of Medicine as well as a research investigator in the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center at MU.