Diet vs. Exercise
I am also reminded of the commercials I keep seeing on the t.v. about these dieting companies that promise to lose "x number of pounds" by "certain date". A lot of these programs will allow you to see moderate to even excellent success, but they aren't necessarily always sustainable for the long haul (life).
Ideally, what I personally follow, and many others should follow too, regardless of age, is called the 90-10 plan. I heard about this a while back and felt that it really suits my lifestyle and feel like it can be possible for many to follow. Basically, it means that 90% of the time I try to eat as healthy as possible consuming fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grain carbohydrates, and lean proteins. The other 10% of the time, I cheat and consume things that are tasty and make me feel good, but really have no nutritional value whatsoever such as cookies or a few beers.
When it comes down to it, I exercise 6-7 times a week, and eat healthy 90% of the time, so that 10% doesn't even become a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things. Not only that, by exercising intensely, I am gaining so many other benefits that can never be attained from diet alone. I have listed a number of scenarios below and discuss what is the top dog for each category, diet or exercise!
Plain and simple, it is MUCH easier to cut 500 calories out of your diet than it is to burn at the gym. To give you an example, many of you could go for a fairly intense run on a treadmill for 20-30 mins. and only burn a few hundred calories. However, by ordering from the lunch menu at the restaurant and skipping dessert could easily drop those unneeded calories. Diet and exercise are extremely effective of keeping weight off, but diet wins here for dropping weight to begin with.
Boost Energy Levels
There is nothing like exercise to get your blood flowing. Not only that, but an intense workout causes a massive flood of "feel-good" hormones throughout your body that not only lift your mood, but also give you a boost of energy. Sure, some foods can give you a quick boost of similar hormones, but they are generally short-lived and can even cause dips in the opposite direction. Sound familiar, eat because you're unhappy, unhappy because of what you ate?
Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Many people will say, "Exercise is good for your heart!" The more correct phrase would be, "Exercise is good for your cardiovascular system". You know, your internal plumbing. Things like high cholesterol, high sodium, high fat, high sugary diets can cause 'clogs' in your internal plumbing that can lead to a myriad of diseases such as (but not limited to) heart disease and stroke. Exercise flushes things out with such positive effects as lowering your blood pressure and resting heart rates. Having said that, consuming healthy fatty acids like Omega-3's can reduce your heart disease risk big time. I call this one a tie!
This category will be a shock to many of you. You automatically assume that diet is the winner here correct? Well, not exactly. Diet goes a long way here, as you should limit your consumption of certain foods (sugary garbage), not to mention overweight individuals are at a higher risk for diabetes (refer to the first category), but healthy active muscles gobble up glucose out of the blood for energy like it's their job! Routine exercise goes a long way to stabilizing your blood sugar levels so even if you do go for that dessert treat every so often, you are mostly covered!
Consuming a mostly plant-based diet has been shown to be a major deterrent for cancer, studies also show that regular exercise strengthens this fact even more. I call this one a tie as well!
Similar to the "Energy" category from above, there is nothing like exercise to boost your mood with that flood of hormones that are released from exercise. Think of it this way, exercise is so good for you that your brain wants to thank your muscles for doing such a good job, so they release these hormones and make you feel great! That's not exactly what happens, but think of it that way. Also, more and more studies have shown that exercise is a great tool to curb the symptoms of depression.
The United States has one of the highest dairy consumption rates per capita amongst many countries in the world yet their rates of osteoporosis are also rising, what gives? Your diet can only get you so far here. You can take in tons of calcium and nutrients to make your body somewhat look good, but your body still survives by the "use it or lose it" mantra. Exercise, and especially resistance training, puts a lot of stress and strain on not only your muscles, but your bones as well. Your body is a fighter in that regard because when it sees a challenge, it attacks it head-on by strengthening your bones, ligaments and muscles so that they can withstand these forces. The more exercise and tensile strength we put our bodies under, the stronger they become and less prone to injuries caused by neglect!
Overall Winner: Exercise
Yes, a healthy diet has LOTS of positives, and by no means can be replaced. As the saying goes, "You can't out-train a bad diet!" So remember that BOTH tools, diet and exercise, are crucial to living a happy, healthy life, but you certainly cannot do this with diet alone. So when you see those commercials promising to help you lose weight by changing your diet alone, remember, that is only part of your health-body equation!