New Year’s Message: Diet PLUS Exercise Wins

by Barbara J. Moore, PhD, President and CEO, Shape Up America!™

Researchers have known for many years that exercise ONLY is not a particularly effective weight loss strategy. Studies show that people who exercise only to lose weight will, on average, lose about 4 pounds. On the other hand, combining diet with exercise can increase the amount of weight loss by two to three times that amount.

Here is some new information about diet PLUS exercise to lose weight:

Data presented in a poster session at a June 2013 meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in Colorado Springs compared 4 popular commercial weight loss programs. The results showed the value of combining diet with exercise to achieve not only weight loss, but also fat loss while protecting lean mass, which is primarily muscle and bone. The big bonus was a measurable increase in fitness.

Researchers from the Exercise and Sport Nutrition Lab at Texas A&M University assigned 127 obese, sedentary women (average age 47; BMI 35) to one of 5 groups for 12 weeks:

  • Control (no diet or exercise assignment)
  • Nutrisystem® Advance Select™
  • Curves Complete® 90-day Challenge
  • Weight Watchers® Points Plus
  • Jenny Craig®
  • Nutrisystem® Advance Select™

The results showed that unlike the control group, significant weight loss was achieved in all 4 commercial groups. But only the Curves group showed a significant increase in fitness. The Weight Watchers group lost a significant amount of weight and fat mass and was considered a good value. But this group also lost lean mass, which is not desirable. Only the Curves group improved oxygen uptake, which is a measure of fitness, and this group lost significant weight and fat mass, while preserving lean mass. From this perspective, the Curves program was a very good value.

The take home message is that to lose weight, combining exercise with diet, including portion control, is the right way to go. If you choose a weight loss program that is convenient to where you live but does not offer an exercise program, be sure to add your own that includes some strength training exercises 2 to 3 times a week and aerobic exercise (such as at least 30 minutes of brisk walking, hiking or cross country skiing) 5 to 6 times per week. To get started on an exercise program tailored just for you, visit the Shape Up America! Fitness Center

Note: The study described in this article was funded by Curves International in Waco, Texas.

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