Over the past year with COVID-19 a lot of people were stuck in their home with gyms closed. This led to over 40% of Americans gaining undesired weight. The average gain among Americans was close to 29 undesirable pounds. As states have started to open, many have wondered what a quick fix to losing that undesirable weight would look like. Most would assume drastically improving their physical activity or eating healthier.

In a Stanford study the goal was to show whether changing your diet, increasing physical activity or both simultaneously were the best remedy to get back a healthier lifestyle. In this study Abby King and colleagues enrolled 200 people over the age of 44 whose diets and physical activity levels were well below healthy standard. The goal was to improve their lifestyle more than focusing solely on weight loss.

They separated into 4 groups; the first group did 4 months of counseling involving improving nutrition & 8 months of nutrition and exercise counseling. The second group began with 4 months of counseling to improve exercise & 8 months of nutrition and exercise counseling. The third group did 12 months of both nutrition and exercise counseling. The final group did 12 months of stress-reduction counseling only. The exercise goal was to increase physical activity to 150 minutes a week. While, the nutrition counseling was focused on 5 to 9 daily serving of fruit & vegetables and reduced saturated fat.

Can you guess what happened? It showed that the controlled groups met none of these goals. The nutrition first group did meet their dietary goals. While the exercise group first met their physical activity goal. Only the group that simultaneously started exercise & nutrition was able to meet both goals.

The results of this study showed that both diet and exercise are needed for a healthy lifestyle change. Lifestyle change is hard to do by yourself but is certainly possible. It also suggests most people need a counselor or trainer for encouragement. One factor the study was not able to control is the wants and needs of the individual. Only an individual can motivate themselves to change how they go about their day.

“The patient is really the expert in his or her own self change. We are experts in medicine, but the patients are experts on their own behavior.”-McManus

Stay Healthy,

Zach Bowman