You can’t Out-Exercise a Bad Diet

In Fitness and Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy Articles by Jeff Gilliam, PT, PhD, OCSLeave a Comment

There can be no doubt that physical exercise is one of the best single activities that we can do to improve our health. All of the latest research on the hazards of inactivity and sedentary behaviors such as sitting (my previous article); leave no confusion as to the health implications of not being active. “Sitting the new Smoking” coined by researcher James Levine, does appear at least in the context of its associations to health, to have become the mark for increased morbidity and mortality.
That being said there has been much research to demonstrate that exercise in and of itself is not a good way to lose weight. A 2012 research article in the journal Cancer Research compared the effects of diet, diet and exercise or exercise only, on weight loss and biomarkers of inflammation over a 12 month period in 439 women. This study demonstrated that the diet and diet and exercise groups not only lost more weight than the exercise only group but also had a greater reduction in inflammatory markers.

Researchers did a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of diet only versus exercise only or a combination of diet and exercise published in 2014 in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics. They showed that in the short-term diet only and a combination of diet and exercise had similar weight loss but in the longer term weight loss increased when diet and physical activity were combined. However programs based on physical activity alone were less effective than combined diet and exercise both in the short and long-term.

Yet another meta-analysis published in Systematic Reviews in 2014 did a quantitative analysis on 21 trials including over 3,521 participants examining the long term effects of diet, diet and exercise or exercise alone on weight loss and cardiovascular health. Their conclusion suggests that diet and exercise can be highly recommended for long-term obesity management and that diet alone was superior to exercise alone.

Researchers have demonstrated that people tend to eat more calories when they exercise and have a difficult time exercising enough to make up for the additional caloric intake. Additionally the amount of exercise that would impact weight loss is significant. Typically a person may expend about 100 calories per mile walked (give or take a few calories dependent on body weight). That equates to about 300 calories per hour when walking at a 3 mph pace…just about the same number of calories that is in a large muffin. Wow, who would have thought that it would take so much exercise/activity to offset those extra treats that we consume daily. So remember while exercise is extremely important and has many excellent physiological effects, the next time you think of weight loss realize that dietary changes along with regular exercise is the best approach!

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Jeff Gilliam PT PhD, OCS: is a weight loss specialist, who has studied extensively in the areas of health behavior, exercise physiology and nutritional biochemistry at the University of Florida. Jeff has taught a course at the University of Florida called ’Research Applications to Obesity and Weight Loss’. He has also taught courses for the DPT program at UF in Health Promotion and Wellness’ and ‘Evidence Based Practice III’. He has presented on a national level on topics related to diseases related to obesity and changing behavior to facilitate a healthy lifestyle. His PhD research was in the area of effective behavioral interventions for obesity and its associated diseases. He is founder of Physicians’ Choice for Weight Loss, a successful lifestyle/weight loss program, which can be found in over 50 clinics in the eastern US. He currently is clinical director of ReQuest Physical Therapy (Gainesville, Florida) and incorporates his lifestyle/weight loss program into his patients’ physical therapy to help them achieve their healthiest body weight. Jeff Gilliam is an Orthopedic Certified Specialist through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties

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