Alison Storey: Weighing up importance of exercise and diet

The health benefits of exercise, even without dieting or weight loss, are too valuable to ignore.

Personal trainer Alison Storey’s weekly column, Storey on Sport, answers your questions on fitness and wellbeing.

Q: If I start a new exercise regime and so start expending more energy (and I haven’t really been doing much until now), is it a good idea to go on a diet at the same time that means I’m taking less energy in?

A: Whilst both intake (food) and output (exercise) are important to overall energy and health it is the balance of these that will affect outcomes.

Eat too little and your body will slow down its metabolism and so not use the stores you’re trying to lose, eat too much and that will negate the energy expenditure.

Additionally, at any given time within a monthly cycle the female body can demand and need around 500 calories more from one day to the next.

All of this is why usually restricting intake and increasing output at the same time can end in tears.

The qualitative understanding of weight loss and the establishment of the experiences and behaviours necessary for successful long-term weight management, is comparatively under-investigated in research.

However there is unanimous agreement that weight loss and maintaining weight loss is a complex combination of factors.

Physical, social, behavioural and environmental elements all appear to assist and/or inhibit weight-loss efforts concurrently.

Notably, more research is needed into the psycho-social consequences of weight-loss dieting, in particular self-imposed social exclusion and spousal sabotage!

It is understanding the day-to-day challenges and providing effective, individually tailored strategies that seem to have the most chance of success.

There is, however, a recent study that showed students that started a regular exercise regime, automatically began to make healthier food choices anyway, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to back this up.

Unless you have individual tailored and supervised strategies for both, I’d say start exercising first – the health benefits of this alone, even without weight loss are priceless.

Q: Is aqua exercise any good?

A: For some people, situations and issues, yes.

Aquarobics, a combination of the words aqua and aerobics, is based on the idea that much more energy is consumed during exercise when resisting water rather than air.

However, by creating buoyancy, it then excludes the benefits of weight-bearing exercise on bone density and muscle mass.

Research shows aquarobics programs are effective in decreasing pain, and improving depression levels, body weight, and blood lipid levels in patients with osteoarthritis.

However, those without injury or pain should probably look at including weight bearing exercise for overall health.

– Waikato’s Alison Storey is a personal trainer who has represented New Zealand in beach volleyball, rowing and rhythmic gymnastics. She has been awarded New Zealand Personal Trainer of the Year twice and runs Storey Sport, a mobile personal and sports training business which provides a range of services that optimise the fitness and wellbeing of its clients.


Do you have a question for Alison? You can contact her via her website, or email her on: [email protected]