News Advisor Dieting vs exercise: which one is better for you?

Dieting vs exercise: which one is better for you?

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More exercise is better than less food, so long as you eat healthily, experts agree.

Dieting, which usually involves counting calories and kilos, is how most people try to improve their health, but litres of sweat might be a better measure, new research suggests.

Aerobic exercise like running can improve your health even if you don’t lose any weight, The University of Sydney study published in the Journal of Hepatology found.

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Exercise and proper nutrition may be ‘optimal’, not eating less. Photo: Shutterstock

Inactive, obese participants who began exercising shrank their liver fat (a serious risk for disease) by between 18 and 29 per cent after eight weeks.

The study’s important message is that even those who gain weight after exercising in the form of extra muscle should not be disheartened, said lead researcher Dr Nathan Johnson.

“Setting goals that aren’t just based on weight loss is probably a more reasonable way to approach these things,” Dr Johnson told The New Daily.

Other health experts agree that obsessing over kilograms and calories is less important than regular workouts and proper nutrition.

What you eat, not how much, is what matters

Focussing on energy input and counting calories — the normal method of weight loss — is unnecessary, Public Health Association of Australia president Heather Yeatman said.

“You don’t need to be doing that,” Professor Yeatman told The New Daily.

“You could have half a Mars bar instead of a whole bar, but still be nutrient deficient.

“The quality of the diet is what’s important, not the kilojoule count.”

Sweat more important than scales

Simply restricting calories may not have any health benefits at all, said The University of Adelaide professor of medicine Gary Wittert.

In fact, for someone whose diet is low in quality foods (which is most of the Western world), exercise not fewer calories may be “optimal”, Professor Wittert said.

“A number of studies are now showing that nutritional quality is more important than calorie restriction for health outcomes.

“The message is that, irrespective of anything, exercise is a critical part of achieving much better health for everyone.

“It has health benefits, always, and the more you do the greater the benefits.

“Simply restricting calories, you do lose weight, but there’s a lot of debate about whether just losing weight by itself is much of a benefit in comparison to dietary quality,” he said.

So just what is a healthy diet?

“There’s only one healthy diet and it hasn’t changed in 100 years,” Professor Wittert said.

All you have to do is:

• Drink water for hydration
• Milk is a food, not a drink
• Fruit should be eaten, not juiced
• Eat no more than three times a day
• Eat at regularly fixed intervals
• Fast from dusk to sun up
• Eat lots of vegetables and only a little meat

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