Diet vs. Exercise: What’s More Important for Weight Loss?

Think all you need to do to lose weight is to exercise a bit every day? Think again.

In order to lose one pound a week, you have to cut down 500 calories from your day. It doesn’t really matter if those 500 calories come from eating less or exercising more. However, cutting down 500 calories from your diet is a lot easier than burning 500 calories through exercise.

Examples of things you can eliminate from your diet to save 500 calories:

  • Give up your daily bagel with cream cheese.

  • Say no to the side order of French fries.

  • Order the salad or burger without the mayo (about 120 calories per tablespoon) and oil.

  • Don’t buy that 5-oz ice cream, which can contain up to 550 calories.

  • Don’t fall for that grilled cheese sandwich – It packs a whopping 550 calories!

  • Go easy when eating Chinese. A single takeout pack of fried rice and chicken can pack more than 800 calories. Go for steamed rice instead.

Activities that burn 500 calories or more per hour:

  • Backpacking in hilly terrain.

  • Racquetball.

  • Cross-country skiing.

  • Rope jumping  (for 45 minutes).

  • Tae Kwon Do (about 45 minutes).

  • That doesn’t mean you should only cut down on calories and not exercise at all. In fact, exercise is key to weight loss, but not because of the calories burned. When you exercise –especially if you incorporate weight training into your routine–, you increase your metabolism.

  • A higher metabolism means more calories burned, even when you’re sitting down and watching TV. So exercising is important, but it should only be used as an addition to your weight loss program, and not the main focus.

  • If you want to lose more than a pound a week, you will need to take advantage of both diet and exercise. Unless you’re currently eating a huge number of calories, cutting more than 500 calories per day can be very difficult.

  • But if you combine that with a daily high-intensity workout (something that burns at least 500 calories per hour), your results will improve significantly.