A good weight-loss plan should combine diet and exercise because new research has found that it’s more effective than dieting alone…

When it comes to losing weight, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre found that diet and exercise are most effective when done together as compared to either strategy alone.

The majority of women in the study who both improved their diet and exercised regularly shed an average of nearly 11 percent of their starting weight. This exceeded the study’s goal of a 10 percent or more reduction in body weight.

“We were surprised at how successful the women were. Even though this degree of weight loss may not bring an obese individual to a normal weight, losing even this modest amount of weight can bring health benefits such as a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer,” says lead researcher Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Prevention Centre and a member of the Hutchinson Centre’s Public Health Sciences Division.

Study based on over 400 postmenopausal women

For the year-long study, 439 overweight-to-obese, sedentary, postmenopausal women (ages 50 to 75) were randomly assigned to one of four groups:

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  • Exercise only (goal: 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise per day, five days a week, including three days at the Hutchison Center’s exercise facility);
  • Diet only (goal: 1 200 to 2 000 calories a day, depending on starting weight, and fewer than 30 percent of daily calories from fat)
  • Exercise and diet (with the same goals as above)
  • No intervention.

“Although numerous studies have examined the effect of lifestyle interventions on weight, few have focused on postmenopausal women, a group that experiences particularly high rates of overweight and obesity,” Dr McTiernan said.

You can beat ‘fat genes’

The results

At the end of the intervention, the researchers found the following:

  • Women in the exercise-only group lost, on average, 2,4 percent of their starting weight (about two kilograms)
  • Women in the diet-only group lost an average of 8,5 percent (about 7,2 kilograms)
  • Women who combined diet and exercise shed an average of 10,8 percent of their starting weight (about 9 kilograms).
  • Women in the control group, who did not change their diet or activity level, on average lost less than half a kilogram.

More weight-loss strategies that work

The study also found that the women who lost the most weight and body fat kept a food journal, writing down everything they ate and drank with the exception of water and no-calorie drinks.

Other strategies associated that worked included preparing meals at home and eating out less often at restaurants.

Get the most bang for your buck

“This study shows that you get the biggest bang for your buck by combining a healthy weight-loss diet – which in this case meant reducing calories by cutting fat intake and boosting the consumption of low-calorie foods – with regular, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise,” says Dr McTiernan.

“You don’t need to be an athlete; walking, biking or gym cardio machines all work well. Start slowly and gradually increase to 45 minutes of activity a day, more if you are able.”

Source: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre via www.sciencedaily.com

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