Diet or exercise? Which is more important?

2 minutes

Both are necessary for weight loss and fitness but which should take priority?

There's no doubt that you will be better able to maintain a healthy weight and feel more fit by keeping these two things in tandem: exercising regularly and eating sensibly. But if one were to govern the other as a lifestyle goal which one should it be? Well, I think I've found the answer. But first, let me tell you a story to illustrate this (and what made me change my ways.)

When I left school at eighteen I weighed nearly eleven stone. That's about sixty-five kilos. This was a boarding school in England and we had to be weighed by the school nurses every term. When I was weighed on my first day, I tipped the scales at a little over seven stone (forty-five kilos). Granted I was only twelve then, and eight centimetres shorter than I had been at eighteen. I had also been a keen gymnast and swimmer but by the time I was studying for my final exams, the sport was neither the main concern nor as compulsory as it had been throughout grade school in the lower years. I didn't eat huge amounts, but when I did I would fill up on things like bread and pasta allowing myself a handful of chocolate biscuits as a study pick-me-up. And the weight didn't seem to shift.

I noticed that one of my year-mates was becoming enviably more toned and fitter than ever. She would never miss a meal would tuck into generous helpings and would always clear her plate. ‘How does she do it?' I would ask myself. ‘She's so lucky.' How naïve I was to think it would be down to potluck. Now, of course, I look back and remember that whilst many of my friends and I used our sixth-form status to slack off from P.E, this girl was still whilst sticking to her revision timetable making time for her sports of choice: tennis, aerobics, and cross-country running.

Meanwhile, no matter how much I tried to adopt healthy eating habits, the weight stubbornly wouldn't budge. It wasn't until after I had finished school when I joined my local gym, started cycling everywhere and hit the dance floor on weekends that the kilos gradually disappeared to reveal a rather sculpted form that had been hiding underneath!


A healthy diet goes without saying but without exercise..... 

  • we are more likely - whether overweight or on the slimmer side - to have cardiac problems or even have a heart attack later on in life
  • our body's inbuilt repair system won't work as well - even moderate exercise has been found to reduce incidences of stroke
  • our physical strength and suppleness is diminished leading to a greater risk of injury and stiff joints
  • our moods are more prone to plummeting because of a deficiency in endorphin production.

It may take a bit more effort to burn off calories by way of physical activity - consider that it takes about five minutes to eat a standard-sized chocolate bar and a good half an hour to run it off!  It's easier not to allow them into your mouth in the first place but where is the enjoyment in that? Depriving ourselves of edible treats tends to hinder weight loss efforts; we've all heard of the yo-yo dieters who have problems in this department. Often it's not until they take up some form of exercise - when there is then a positive shift in metabolism - that they feel released from the relentless treadmill (so to speak) where diet becomes all-consuming yet rarely works as a standalone goal. Psychologically then increasing physical activity is better than significantly decreasing calories.

Personally, I have found that since I've made exercise an integral part of my life not only has this stabilised food cravings that can lead to weight gain diabetes and the like but has also had a positive influence on mood.

So make it a point to get physically fit first…then let's eat!


Written by Cassandra Duell

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