Diet or Exercise: Which One Is More Important for Weight Loss?

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on May 13, 2024
a man running on a treadmill, exercising

Staying fit and dropping weight calls for good food habits and consistent exercise. Stepping into the realm of healthy eating and active living may feel like climbing a mountain. Yet, surprise, surprise – it’s simpler than it looks.

According to Mayo Clinic (1), diet only means that you eat healthy foods, for instance, consuming low-calorie meals. On the other hand, exercise means that you engage in physical activities. Besides, physical activities don’t need to be strenuous, walking, climbing the stairs, playing basketball, gardening, or even dancing are all excellent ways to be active.

When it comes to losing weight, we usually focus on our diets, but regular exercise is actually a crucial part of our weight-loss program. If we tend to be physically active, our body requires energy for us to move, which means that we burn calories from the food we eat.

But, we are always confused, which is better between diet and exercise when it comes to weight loss. Let us discuss the benefits of diet, the benefits of exercise, and the reasons why both are equally important.

Benefits of diet

Diet can aid in losing weight

Obesity is one of the main causes of various chronic diseases that is the reason why an effective treatment is crucial in terms of our quality of life, costs for health care, and utilization of medical resources according to NCBI (2).

In the short term, a low-calorie diet can lower our total body weight. But, this kind of diet is found out to be successful only for a short term, let’s say over a period of 5 years. Rapid weight loss may have adverse effects on our body.

In fact, another study published in NCBI (3) explained how obesity is considered a global problem affecting around 17.6 million children and over 17.6 billion adults. AHRQ (4) published clinical guidelines and recommendations with regard to adults who are obese. It advised that clinicians should provide behavioral intervention and intensive counseling in promoting weight loss.

A good diet is crucial for our well-being and can help us feel better. In fact, no food contains all the needed nutrients of our body in order to stay healthy. That is the reason why our diet should include various foods for us to obtain a wide range of nutrients our body needs.

According to Medical News Today (5) losing weight means that we should reduce our calorie intake, but it should not be more than the required calorie a day. It is suggested that we consume plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables compared to processed foods.

Diet can reduce the risk of cancer

If we are obese, we will most likely be at a higher risk to develop cancer. But if we have a healthy weight, then we can reduce the risk of cancer. That is the reason why we need to maintain a healthy diet to avoid obesity, thereby reducing the risk of cancer.

According to a study published in NCBI (6), there is a significant increase in the rates of obesity over the last decades. Aside from the risk of diabetes and heart disease, obesity is considered a risk for cancer.

On the other hand, a study published in NCBI (7) ascertained that 20 percent of cancer is caused by being obese and it becomes malignant based on diet, physical activity, weight change, and body fat distribution.

Since obesity can cause cancer, we should maintain a proper diet to maintain our health. In fact, if we include fruits and vegetables in our diet, we can be protected from different kinds of cancer (8).

Most fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals (9) which act as antioxidants, which aid in protecting our cells from damages.

Antioxidants such as lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E can reduce the risk of cancer.

Diet aids in diabetes management

There are about 366 million people (10) throughout the world who suffer from diabetes, and the figure is foreseen to rise up to 552 million by the year 2030. This disease comes with complications affecting not just the health, but also the productivity and quality of life of the patient.

A diabetes diet contains healthy foods that are nutrient-rich and low in calories and fat. People with diabetes should eat healthy foods (11) at moderate amounts during regular meal times. This diet is usually focused on whole, plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

People with diabetes should follow (12) a meal plan that could help in managing blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol. It suggested eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, fish, low-fat milk, and cheese. Drinking water is also crucial instead of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.

Benefits of exercises

Exercise can aid in losing weight

According to a study published in NCBI (13), obesity is a major public concern in the US. In fact, the total annual medical spending related to obesity is ranging from $147 billion to $210 billion.

Obesity is linked to various cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, stroke, coronary heart disease, cardiac arrhythmias, and ventricular dysfunction according to a study published in NCBI (14). In fact, overweight and obese people are recommended to lose weight by engaging in physical activities.

According to a study published in NCBI (15), even if we don’t aim to lose weight, we need to have exercise training as it gives various health benefits, especially to people who are overweight and obese. These people are actually at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, but this risk will actually decrease by having regular exercise.

In fact, the step taken by the World Health Organization to prevent and control non-communicable diseases is to promote a global strategy on diet and physical activity. Furthermore, it was found out in a study published in NCBI (16) that supervised exercise is actually effective in weight loss if it comes with equivalent energy expenditure. So, if we want to lose weight and avoid the risk of obesity, we should make sure that we remain physically active.

Exercise can reduce the risk of chronic diseases

Lack of physical activity is a major cause of chronic diseases. It cannot be denied, but chronic diseases are one of the main causes of mortality all throughout the world. It further discussed that we need food and physical activities in order to survive. Due to the modern world, we now have the choice not to be physically active. But then, pieces of comprehensive evidence show that lack of exercise can actually affect our cells, organs, and systems which can lead to accelerated death.

Regular exercise is also shown to improve body composition, cardiovascular fitness, and insulin sensitivity while decreasing blood fat levels and blood pressure. According to a study published in NCBI (17), exercise can substantially decrease the total body fat, body weight, and visceral fat.

On the contrary, lack of physical activities, even for a short period of time, can lead to weight gain, which will most likely increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and early death. Thus, it is recommended to have daily physical activities to reduce the risk of various diseases.

Exercise can improve brain health and memory

A study published in Health Harvard suggests us to engage in physical activities to help our memory and thinking. Exercise has the ability to reduce inflammation, reduce insulin resistance, and stimulate the production of chemicals in our brain, affecting our cells and blood vessels.

Perhaps, it is an excellent gene modulator (18) that promotes functional and structural changes in the brain which determine the number of benefits in our brain health. Both chronic and aerobic exercises have similar benefits when it comes to brain health.

Regular exercise is very crucial for adults because they are more prone to changes in brain function and structure (19). The incidence of dementia and cognitive impairment is usually increasing in an aging population, but exercise is actually a strategy that can slow age-related decline in older people.

In fact, people who have neurodegenerative disorders associated with cognitive decline can benefit from exercise. Exercise helps in improving memory function in order to prevent the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

Our hippocampus grows in size if we engage in physical activities. Hippocampus is a part of our brain, which is vital for long-term memory. It is also crucial in spatial navigation. But if our hippocampus is damaged, it can lead to memory loss. We don’t want that to happen, right?

Why are both equally important?

Our food choices affect our well-being. Combined with exercise, our diet can help us maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of various diseases, and promote our entire health. Unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activities are major reasons for obesity in the US.

Health benefits

Both exercise and diet should be considered in order to get rid of various diseases and other health conditions. Diet and exercise can greatly affect our immune system. If we eat the right kind and amount of foods, together with exercise, we can boost the ability of our body to combat diseases.

When it comes to exercise, it is recommended to aim for at least 2 ½ hours a week (20). Stretching is an important part before and after exercise. When it comes to diet, we should include more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, nuts, and legumes.

But, we should minimize consuming foods that are rich in sodium, sugar, cholesterol, and saturated fat. In conjunction with a healthy diet, regular exercise can reduce our risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancers.


Of course, losing weight is not just to make us look sexier, but it for our health. Well, Americans want to lose weight because of a number of reasons. We all know that being overweight or obese can increase our risk of life-threatening diseases.

If we avoid being obese and maintain a healthy lifestyle, then we can prevent our risk of certain diseases that could lead us to death. Although 73 percent of people in the US want to lose weight with the desire to be healthy, not all of them actually have a proper diet and exercise.
Improved mental health

We cannot deny, but if we are overweight, we tend to be embarrassed by how we look. Having low self-confidence and self-esteem can actually lead to anxiety and depression. If we want to feel better about ourselves, we should lose weight by eating healthy, and by engaging in physical activities.

Regular exercise has a positive impact on anxiety, depression, ADHD, and many more. It improves memory, relieves stress, boosts mood, and helps us sleep better. Exercise can be a powerful tool to make us feel better, regardless of age and fitness.

Decreased risk of joint problems

We all know what exercise can do in our body. But, only around 1/3 of people in the US get enough exercise due to a number of reasons, such as lack of time and lack of motivation. Exercise is usually prescribed for people who are suffering from arthritis.

But before engaging in physical exercise, it is best to seek help from health professionals, especially those who are experts in arthritis and osteoporosis training exercises. In that way, we can get an ideal program that is both effective and safe for our condition.

Energy Boost

If we lose weight, we notice that we have more energy. Actually, around half of people in the US want to lose weight in order to boost their energy. Our body requires many energy in order to carry our body if we are overweight or obese.


A healthy diet usually includes a whole, plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. It is also recommended to eat whole grains, lean proteins, good fats, and starches instead of processed foods.

We can see the difference if we opt for eating healthy foods, especially when it comes to the risk of various diseases. There are actually many benefits of eating healthy such as weight loss, reduced risk of cancer, and diabetes management.

Furthermore, physical activities can aid in losing weight. Well, there are many kinds of physical activity, such as walking, running, jogging, swimming, and many more. It is also shown to have various health benefits, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

No doubt that exercise can bring us various incredible benefits for our entire well-being. In fact, regular exercise can help us produce hormones which do not only make us physically fit, but also make us feel happier. In fact, it can make our skin glow and improve our sex life.

So if you decide to have a healthier lifestyle, you should start changing your diet into a healthy one and increase your physical activities. Both diet and exercise are crucial not just for weight loss, but also for your entire well-being.



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