Protect your heart with a combination of diet and exercise


Smart combo

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The reasons people want to lose weight are not necessarily always aesthetic ones. While some people may want to look good in a swimsuit, others are compelled to drop pounds for the sake of their cardiovascular health. What's the best way to lose weight for people who aren't used to dieting and aren't huge fans of exercise? Do you just diet? Do you just exercise? Or do you do both?


Common sense

Saint Louis UniversityTechnically speaking, the way to improve your cardiovascular health when you are overweight is to lose weight with whichever strategy works for you — via a healthy diet, via physical activity or via a combination of the two. The resulting weight loss, according to a Saint Louis University study, is the protective secret sauce, if you will.

"For men and women with excess body weight, modest weight loss provides powerful protection against cardiovascular disease, regardless of whether weight loss is achieved by using exercise, a healthy low-calorie diet, or both," said Edward Weiss, PhD, associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University and the lead author of the article.

But there's a catch.


Work smart, not hard

Although there was no notable difference between a combination of diet and exercise versus simply dieting or exercising alone, Weiss says it doesn't give people carte blanche to eat high-calorie junk food or have sedentary lifestyles. In fact, Weiss advocates a combination of healthy eating and exercise as the ideal roadmap to heart health.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo wants a word...Say you opt for a healthy diet in lieu of exercise. Even if you avoid fads and adopt a healthy balanced diet that leaves you satisfied, you won't be doing your insides any favors by driving everywhere and parking it on the sofa. You may well see the pounds drop off, but you may still feel winded when you carry groceries up the stairs.

Conversely, if you decide to exercise but make no changes to your diet, you may find yourself on a plateau. There's a reason why people say that abs start in the kitchen, and it's because, try as you might, you can't outrun a bad diet. Again, even if you see the pounds come off initially, it doesn't mean you aren't probably clogging up your arteries with bad food choices.

When it comes to weight loss, the means of achieving it may not necessarily matter. But being inactive increases your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, regardless of whether you're overweight. The smart option, therefore, is combining a healthy, realistic diet with an exercise routine that works for you, be that an intense CrossFit program a few times a week, yoga that involves you defying the laws of gravity, riding a bike or going on brisk walks in the park or on a treadmill.