Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


Make health changes simultaneous for best success

Most people know that the way to stay healthy is to exercise and eat right, but millions of Americans struggle to meet those goals or can’t even decide where to start.

Stanford researchers have discovered that focusing on changing exercise and diet at the same time gives a bigger boost than tackling them sequentially. They also found that focusing on changing diet first — an approach that many weight-loss programs advocate — may actually interfere with establishing a consistent exercise routine.

“It may be useful to start both at the same time,” said Abby King, PhD, a professor of health research and policy and of medicine. “If you need to start with one, start with physical activity first.”

The research looked at people who complained that they didn’t have enough time to make healthy dietary and exercise choices. Despite the challenge of making multiple changes to their already-busy routines, those who changed their diet and exercise habits at the same time were most likely to meet national guidelines for exercise and nutrition. Those who started with exercise first were somewhat less successful.

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