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Tackling exercise and diet together best for weight loss: study

health and fitness Updated: Apr 23, 2013 18:28 IST
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Adding exercise to your daily routine is more effective than making dietary changes alone when it comes to losing weight and meeting guidelines for nutrition and physical activity, suggest the findings of a new report published this week.

While incorporating both exercise and a healthy diet at the same time was found to yield the best results in their study of 200 inactive participants, authors of a Stanford University paper found that weight loss programs which focus on
dietary changes first were less effective in the long run.

"If you need to start with one, consider starting with physical activity first,” said lead author Abby King in a statement.

The findings were published online in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine April 21.

For their study, researchers divided 200 inactive participants aged 45 and older into four groups, each of which received telephone coaching.

The first group learned to make changes to their diet and exercise at the same time. The second group was coached on making dietary changes first, before incorporating physical exercise a few months later. The strategy was reversed for the third group while the fourth was simply taught stress management techniques.

After following their progress for a year, researchers found that those who made changes to both their diet and exercise regime at the same time were most likely to meet US guidelines -- 150 minutes of activity a week, and five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

The group that eased into the program by first changing their diet, meanwhile, failed to meet their exercise goals near
the end of the year-long study, researchers noted.

Similarly, a study published last year based on the results of the reality US TV show “The Biggest Loser” found that exercise and healthy eating reduce body fat and preserve muscle in adults better than diet alone.

In the show, obese contestants are put on an intense weight loss program. The goal is to lose as much weight as possible.

Another study from 2008 found that a group of sedentary and overweight older adults who changed their eating habits but didn’t exercise lost valuable muscle mass over a four-month period compared to their counterparts who undertook both weight loss measures.