Benefit to improving diet and exercise at the same time

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When you decide it’s time to live a healthier lifestyle, you’re likely to get better long-term results if you start improving your diet and increasing physical activity at the same time.

It may seem better to improve just one thing at a time.  But while you don’t have to make drastic changes overnight, a new study suggests that it’s best to begin by bettering both your nutrition and your activity level.

“This gives me hope that making two changes at the same time can work,” says Kathy McManus, director of the nutrition department at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Counseling Advice for Lifestyle Management: The CALM Study

The study, from Stanford University researcher Abby King and colleagues, enrolled 200 people over age 44 whose diets and physical-activity levels were well below healthy standards. They were hoping to improve their lifestyles, but were not specifically trying to lose weight.

Study participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups:

  • The diet-first group began with four months of counseling about improving nutrition, then received both nutrition and exercise counseling for eight months.
  • The exercise-first group began with four months of counseling about increasing their activity level, then received both nutrition and exercise counseling for eight months.
  • The simultaneous group got 12 months of both nutrition and exercise counseling.
  • The control group got 12 months of stress-reduction counseling.

For all groups, the exercise goal was to increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to 150 minutes (two and a half hours) each week. The diet goal was to get five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables and to reduce saturated fats to 10% of total calories consumed.

What happened? The control group met none of these goals. Those in the diet-first group met their dietary goals.  Those in the exercise-first group met their activity goal. But only those in the simultaneous group met both goals.

On the other hand, nobody lost significant weight.  “Many of us are trying to do that, also,” McManus says. “We don’t know how this would play out if the focus of lifestyle change were on weight loss.”

How To Change Your Lifestyle

Lifestyle change is very hard to do by oneself. Most people need counseling and encouragement. McManus praises the Stanford study for providing much-needed data on how healthcare providers can help people achieve lifestyle change.  However, she notes that every individual has his or her own lifestyle and needs an individualized approach to changing it.

“The patient is really the expert in his or her own self-change. We are experts in medicine, but patients are experts on their own behavior,” McManus says. “We elicit dialog around that, building on any successful changes they’ve made in the past. And we develop connections about what matters to them and why it matters, understanding and empathizing with what they will miss if they leave out, say, the high-sodium snacks they’ve been eating.”

It doesn’t work merely to tell people what they must do, what they need to do, or what they should do.

“We use phrases such as, ‘Other folks have found,’ ‘Some have benefitted from,’ and ‘You might consider,’” she says. “Once patients feel listened to they are more open to what you have to say.”

Over time, McManus says, people place more importance on healthy behaviors and become more confident in their ability to make changes.

“Without confidence, behavior change chances are slim,” she says. “We go from that, to where the individual is driving his or her own intervention and behavior change.”


  1. Blog Ardy

    Nice post


    very interesting article.. rightnow i’m on my diet and i hope that i can loose my weight.. 😀
    thanks for sharing and come in to my article about detox foods.

  3. Il problema è quante persone possono identificarsi. Dato che io sono “out of touch” Devo ancora capire quali messaggi avranno un sacco di commenti e che non lo faranno. In effetti, di solito quando scrivo quello che penso è un grande post

  4. Este fue un hecho muy relevante publicación. En teoría yo prefiero escribir así también – conseguir el tiempo y el esfuerzo real para hacer una maravillosa pieza de la escritura … pero ¿qué puedo decir … me dilatar mucho y en ningún caso parece que obtener una cosa por hacer.

  5. MJ Fitness

    I have found that after 8 tries of starting and stopping p90x, something clicked inside of my brain telling me that I would complete 1 round before my 31st birthday (aug. 2013). I am halfway through the 1st round and feeling great. I find that when I track my calories using livestrong’s free tool, that I make better eating choices and stick to my workout schedule.

  6. hola a todos, yo también soy nuevo en los foros. Aunque me he unido hace unos momentos, estoy al acecho de los foros en el momento, para conocer lo que está pasando.

  7. Non posso credere che avete messo così bene che anche un principiante come me può capire. molte grazie

  8. Ich bin sicher, dass viele Leute mit diesem Stück Arbeit zu vereinbaren. Ich würde sagen, es ist eine sehr gute Arbeit zu diesem Thema.

  9. Isiah Talayumptewa

    I am hoping I can get some experienced feedback from the professionals who have been there and done it and are currently doing it in the workforce as of today. Or any great advice will be greatly appreciated!

  10. Marcelo | Rutina de Ejercicios en Casa

    Los cambios en la alimentacion han hecho que se viva a traves de excesos de alimentos que no quiere decir que nos alimentemos mejor. Por otro lado es crucial mantener una condicion fisica aceptable es decir seguir un plan de ejercicio basico.

    Prof. Marcelo

  11. writemypaperpal

    The diet-first group began with four months of counseling about improving nutrition, then received both nutrition and exercise counseling for eight months.
    The exercise-first group began with four months of counseling about increasing their activity level, then received both nutrition and exercise counseling for eight months.

  12. B A Bostock

    Diet is a neutral word, just describes what you eat. Examples vegetarian diet, normal US diet, vitamin rich diet.

    The weight loss industry has used “dieting” “on a diet” “diet Coke” as alternatives to weight loss or calorie controlled. Also takes less space on the pack. All as a way to charge extra or build market share. Are products with “diet” added better for you? Really? The same set of questions about “low fat”. If they are lower fat but claim the same taste what extra has been added, a natural ingredient or a trans-fat, some extra salt?

    So the word “dieting” has become bound up with deprivation, giving up certain foods. What reaction do you get if you tell people, colleagues, or friends you are dieting? Condescending looks, a ‘poor you’ attitude, and questions about what you’re giving up or how long you’ll stick with it. Sympathetic help? I think not


  13. Lucy Sackett

    Is it truly possible to lose weight and keep it off if you do one without the other. I seem to always gain it back when I lose by diet alone or when I stop exercising and only stay on diet.

  14. Conny Roukens

    Maybe a walk every day can help in motivating people to exercise more and eat more healthy. Many people think that it is not possible to burn by walking fat. However, research suggests something different: walking shows one of the best ways to fall off gradually and permanently. Of course, you burn fewer calories by walking than running or sports. The great advantage of walking is that it is easy to persevere and easy to incorporate in daily life. Who starts walking should therefore not expect any dramatic short-term results, but who perseveres will clearly lose weight in the long term. Moreover, this weight loss is often more decisive than the weight that you lose when dieting.

    It is best to walk as much and as often as possible. Always try to walk on a snappy pace, once a day for more than 20 consecutive minutes, you should just get a little warm. This way you stimulate the fat burning and circulation, which helps protect against heart disease again.

  15. Boot Camp Gold Coast

    Eating what is good for you and burning those food calories through exercise help you attain optimum health. Besides feeling physically and mentally fresh every day, this healthy lifestyle controls your weight and reduces your chances of developing chronic disease. The final result may be a longer life span, in which you enjoy greater mobility and mental clarity than people who pursue poor nutritional and sedentary habits. Nourishing and strengthening your body can create a healthy present and future.

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