Healthy Eating vs. Exercise: Is Either Better than the Other?
Healthy eating versus exercise: is either one better than the other? If we naturopaths had a dollar for every time we heard that question we would have a lot of dollars. And unfortunately, far too many in the business of being healthy try to convince consumers to take sides. We see this a lot in the weight loss industry.
The truth of the matter is that both are equally important if a person wants to enjoy the best health possible. But they are important for different reasons. In other words, neither one is exclusive of the other. Both have separate benefits that, when combined, create a healthier life for the individual.
Healthy Eating: You Are What You Eat
The point of eating, from a physiological perspective, is to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function. Food is the fuel that enables all of your body’s systems to do what they do. Therefore, the quality of the fuel affects the performance of your body – just like the quality of fuel in a race car affects its performance. It is true that you are what you eat.
Dietitians and nutritionists constantly remind us of the importance of a balanced diet. The body needs protein for some functions, vitamins and minerals for other functions, and even carbs, fats and sodium too. The key to healthy eating is not deprivation of certain things we perceive as being bad; it is maintaining a proper balance to make sure the body receives all of the different kinds of nutrients it needs.
Where weight loss is concerned, healthy eating is all about calories. The science of weight loss and management is simple. Losing weight requires burning more calories than you consume; maintaining weight is a matter of breaking even on calorie consumption and burning. Healthy eating is important to weight loss and management because it ensures the body gets the right volume and types of calories.
Exercise: Use It or Lose It
Exercise is essential to healthy living because of the way the human body is designed. Just think of the astronaut who spends one year on the International Space Station. That astronaut must do specific exercises every single day if he/she wants to maintain muscle mass and function. Failing to exercise would result in loss of muscle mass and eventual atrophy.
The simple fact of the matter is that our bodies were designed to move and exert energy. The old adage of using it or losing it is absolutely true. A failure to exercise reduces the ability of all the body’s systems to work as they were designed to work. It can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight gain, and all sorts of additional issues.
The only real question relating to exercise for healthy living is one of how much is necessary. There is no easy answer that works well for everybody. Some people can get by with 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise a couple of times a week. Some need more; others need less. But everyone needs some exercise to remain healthy.
In the end, the debate over healthy eating versus exercise is really a non-debate after all. It’s not an either/or kind of thing; both are equally necessary for a long and productive life enhanced by good health.