While a combination of exercising more and eating less is a good idea, the key to losing undesired body fat is to eat fewer calories. Subtracting food seems to be more important than adding on exercise for fat loss.
While aerobic exercise like running or cycling does help create a calorie deficit, a smart choice is to also lift weights. This helps preserve your muscles. Otherwise, more of the weight you lose will be in the form of muscle.
Exercise becomes more important when you are ready to maintain your fat loss. Research suggests that dieters who have been obese need about 60 to 90 minutes per day of exercise. (Having been obese seems to reset the metabolism and creates a strong biological drive to regain the weight). Walking is a popular exercise among dieters. Pedometers are helpful tools to guide people to ramp-up their activity, with a goal of 10,000 to 12,000 steps per day.
Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Sports Nutrition Services
Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 4th Edition
Food guides for soccer, new runners, marathoners, cyclists