Weekly Wellness: Exercise or nutrition? Which is more important?
COLUMBIA — Which came first? The chicken or the egg? It's the question that has haunted us for hundreds of years. In a modern-day application of the chicken/egg question, I'm asked often "which is more important, changing my diet or exercising?"
Man, that's a tough one. As you should know by now (because I say it all the time), in order to make the lifestyle changes that you want to make, it's important to pay attention to BOTH your daily nutrition and your exercise.
I know that can be incredibly challenging (especially if you have been stuck in some tough food habits and have been sedentary). That's a LOT of change all at once. There is some research that may help.
A new study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that you may see better results if you start with exercise first.
The study followed 200 inactive men and women 45 years and older who also had poor diets. The participants were divided into four groups: those who started new diet and exercise habits at the same time, those who started exercise first and changed diet habits a few months later, those who changed their diet first and started exercising later, and those who didn't change their diet and exercise habits at all. The four groups were tracked and coached for a year.
The authors found that those who changed their diet and exercise habits at the same time were better at meeting the U.S. exercise guideline minimum of 150 minutes a week as well as eating more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat. The group who changed exercise habits first was able to stick to their healthier diet and exercise habits almost as well as the dieting and exercise group, but the group who changed their diet first failed to meet their exercise goals.
The study showed that the exercise-first group had more success because finding time to exercise can be harder than learning to substitute healthier foods when you eat.