What is Better for Overweight: Exercise or Diet?

When we discuss being overweight, there are always questions about how to best control it and what methods are ideal for reducing it and losing weight, something that is highly recommended for health reasons, such as controlling cholesterol, blood pressure, and sugar in the blood, as well as preventing diseases associated with being overweight, such as diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and others.

Above all, it is difficult to comprehend what the real secret to avoiding obesity is due to the abundance of material accessible on the subject, which ranges from miraculous diets which do not always perform as promised to pharmaceuticals, key workouts, ointments, oils, routine habits, and much more. But how does any of this help us?

According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, based on observations of urban and rural areas, the weight of people is closely related to their physical activity and food. That is, people acquire weight because they eat too much and move too little, a phenomenon that is especially typical in metropolitan contexts where we spend the majority of our time sitting while working. Nevertheless, this is not all.

This report evaluated the lifestyles, dietary habits, and body composition of rural and urban residents. Although the results demonstrated that rural people who run, walk, and collect food for hours are slimmer and more active than their urban counterparts, they paradoxically do not burn more calories per day; this finding suggests that the modernization of the diets of urban residents is the cause of their weight gain.

Sam Urlacher, an assistant professor of Anthropology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, later investigated the relationship between physical activity and calorie burning, working with an Amazonian Shuar community that relies primarily on food gathering, hunting, fishing, and subsistence agriculture.

In this group, the days are long and physically taxing, their meals are heavy in bananas and other similar carbs, and they have lean bodies. The Shuar, particularly youngsters, are neither overweight nor malnourished. The question that naturally arose at this point was to determine the relationship between their physically busy lifestyles and their slender physiques.

To do this, Urlacher collaborated with Herman Pontzer’s research, which indicated that humans possess an innate and unconscious ability to reallocate energy use during evolution. Therefore, if we burn a great deal of calories through physical exercise, for instance, we burn fewer calories through another biological mechanism, such as the immunological response. Consequently, our average daily energy expenditure is confined to a fixed number of total calories. This is advantageous for hunters and gatherers because it prevents them from going hungry while working, but it is detrimental for those who live in urban and modernized environments because it implies that more exercise does not result in significant weight loss, since a person in an urban environment who is thinner can burn the same number of calories with physical activity as a sedentary person in an urban environment, because the body adapts to its needs.

Rather, nutrition has a considerably more basic influence in the weight disparity between urban and rural populations. In the study, urban dwellers consumed much more dairy items, meat, carbohydrates like white rice, and highly processed meals like sweets, which significantly contributed to weight increase.

Which of the two variables more sedentary lifestyle or increased food consumption may be more significant is still unclear, and, as obesity researchers have noted, we cannot effectively respond to the health epidemic unless we understand its origins. Ideally, these inquiries will continue.

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