Richard G. Petty, MD

Exercise Beats "Dieting" in Managing Obesity

An important report was presented at the Scientific Meeting of the United Kingdom Society for Behavioural Medicine in Cambridge earlier this month.

A team of researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Hull studied 62 women aged 24 to 55. They all had a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30, which is classed as clinically obese. (Regular readers will know that most experts have moved away from using BMI to evaluate metabolic and cardiovascular risks).

The program encouraged women not to diet but to take part in exercise classes. They were required to do four hours a week of exercise, such as t’ai chi, aqua aerobics or circuit classes. So it was not necessary to become a hard core exercise freak!

The researchers found significant improvements in health and mental well-being.

The women in the study were also taught about good eating habits, including how to read food labels and cook food, and they received social support and behavioral therapy to help them respond to body cues such as hunger and feeling full.

After a year, the women had only lost a little weight but were significantly fitter and happier with themselves. Their blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol fell and respiratory fitness increased. And the women also felt better in terms of general well-being, body image, self-perception and stress.

This small, simple study re-emphasizes what we have said to tens of thousands of people: fad diets will only help in the short term. For all practical purposes you can eat what you want, but in moderation. But try gradually to change the composition of your diet. I have written some advice on doing that. In Healing, Meaning and Purpose we also provide a number of tactics to help you tackle some of the psychological and social hurdles that may stand in the way of weight management. Which include something not often discussed: the twelve ego-fears that can be the hidden drivers to a lot of our behavior.

Understand them and you can gain a remarkable degree of control of your thinking and your emotions.

And it is exercise that should be the centerpiece of a weight management strategy.

This was re-inforced by a study published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine: people who lost weight by restricting calories lost bone mineral density. Those with exercise-induced weight loss did not.

And as you doubtless know, loss of bone mineral density is one of the key risk factors for osteoporosis.

So please don’t buy in to some new “miracle” diets: they simply don’t exist.


  • Gradually increase your level of exercise
  • Slowly change the composition of your diet
  • Keep your internal organs – especially your intestine – in balance
  • Develop your food awareness (I am going to do a whole post/article about that!)
  • Learn how to deal with the psychological, social subtle and spiritual aspects of suboptimal eating (Check out the reources that I have already provided + a new eBook in the New Year)

And before you know it, you will be exactly where you want to be.


Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”
–Plato (Athenian Philosopher, 428-348 B.C.E.)

“The way to cheerfulness is to keep our bodies in exercise and our minds at ease.”

–Sir Richard Steele (English Dramatist and Essayist, 1672-1729)

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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