Exercise alone won’t help you lose weight if you continue eating an unhealthy diet. That’s the conclusion of an Australian review of 43 weight-loss studies dating back to 1985. “Exercise by itself is not going to be an effective weight-loss strategy for an individual, you really need to combine exercise with better nutrition,” review lead author Dr. Kelly Shaw, a public health doctor with the department of health and human services in Tasmania, said in a prepared statement.
She also concluded that a healthy diet actually does more to promote weight loss than exercise.
If someone told her they wanted to lose weight but had to choose between either diet or exercise alone, Shaw said her response would be, “you need to look at your nutrition intake because there’s a bigger bang for your buck from modifying nutrition than there is with physical activity.”
The review is published in the current issue of The Cochrane Library journal.
The evidence is clear that, in the short term, diet has more of an impact on weight loss than exercise, said John Jakicic, chair of the department of health and physical activity at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. He was not involved in the review.
“Within 6 months, with diet alone we can get about a 9 or 10 kilogram weight loss, which is over 20 pounds, versus with activity we get about a 2 kilogram weight loss in that same period of time,” Jakicic said in a prepared statement.
However, while diet is important in early weight loss, “exercise seems to be one of those key factors for keeping the weight off when you lose it,” Jakicic said.