February 8, 2017

Nutrition or Exercise?

Should I focus on nutrition changes, or exercising more?

Which is going to have a bigger impact on my health?

This is one of the top questions health professionals get when talking to clients embarking on a new journey of wellness. Many people state that a lack of time or resources makes them more inclined to try one or the other, but not both changes, when starting out. This may be a big mistake. “It’s more likely that clients will reinforce their healthy habits if they build off of one another” says Kelsea Forrester, Registered Dietitian at MIT. A client who uses all their available energy on changing their diet to their goal eating plan, may be able to sustain that change for a few weeks, but may not have the positive reinforcement of building on that success. Similarly, a client who jumps all-in to a new exercise routine may feel very good about this change. But when facing week 3 or 4 of their new plan, they might have decreased momentum. Instead, choosing a small lifestyle change in both areas is a better idea for redirecting energy towards increased health.

Nutrition or Exercise

Here is a great example. A client could commit to packing a paired snack for every afternoon to crush hunger cravings. They might choose an apple and peanut butter, or a cheese stick and carrots. In addition, the client could also plan to go to the gym for 20 minutes 2-3 times per week. On their own, these changes are small enough to fold into the existing routine. When combined, these changes can have a major impact on health. The client will gain motivation and energy, and be ready to take on another challenge in the weeks ahead.

One + One = Better Health

The bottom line – pick two routines to change: one exercise goal, and one nutrition goal, and master those! Over time, you will get to the “ideal” workout or eating plan you are searching for in a more sustainable way than if you jump to 100% before you are confident and prepared.

Nutrition or Exercise

Getting  Started

Depending on your goals, you’ll want to try different combinations that are most likely to produce the results you’re looking for. Here of some examples of this “one + one” method, based on specific goals:

For Weight-loss: Limit sugar + Complete a 20 min workout three times a week

For Heart Health: Add more fruits and veggies to your diet + Go for a brisk walk twice a week

For Lower Blood Pressure: Limit Salt (try avoiding packaged/processed foods) + go for a swim twice a week


For more nutrition ideas and to book a nutrition session with MIT’s Dietitian, Kelsea Forrester, please email nutrition@mit.edu