Which is better: healthy eating or exercise?

Do you often question what’s healthier?

Some people struggle to live a healthy life.

Is it more important to eat organic foods or more produce? Which will result in more weight loss and better health: clean eating or exercise? Is being fully raw the best decision? Is being vegan important? Which is more important to cut out: excess salt or fat?

The answers are here in another “this” vs. “that.”

Healthy Eating or Exercise

A healthy lifestyle incorporates both physical activity and clean eating. This combination results in lifelong health and longevity.

But what if you can include only one of those into your life? Which one should you pick: physical activity or a clean diet?

Let’s assess the pros and cons for each.

Clean eating is first:

Pros for healthy eating Cons for healthy eating
1.     Guarantees a healthy body weight

2.      Doesn’t take more time

3.      Environmentally friendly

4.      A minimal chance for nutritional deficiencies

6.      Promotes a regular and healthy digestive system

7.      Few/no restrictions for older people or those with preexisting medical conditions

8.      Clean eating could prevent 30% or more of all cancers

9.      Clean eating is shown to stop or reverse chronic diseases and some cancers

1.      Won’t build muscle mass

2.      Doesn’t stop muscle degeneration

Exercise or healthy eating: which is more important? What is healthy? Get your answers to your burning questions. You may be surprised @carobcherub

Clean eating has many benefits. I’ll pick out the ones that stick out over the benefits of exercise.

First: healthy body weight.  A truly healthy diet results in a healthy body weight. A healthy body weight decreases chronic disease risk, mortality and body strain.

The second main benefit of clean eating is time. Clean eating takes no more time than eating unhealthy. Healthful meals can be made in less than 30 minutes, just like unhealthy meals.

Additionally, eating healthy has no restrictions. It requires no special kitchen equipment and doesn’t restrict due to one’s age or medical condition. Anybody can do it. Eating healthy is also generally less expensive than eating unhealthful.

Lastly, it not only prevents chronic diseases, it also reverses them (i.e. cardiovascular disease and diabetes).

A study has found that diet accounts for at least 30% of all cancers in Western countries.

Here are the pros and cons for exercise:

Pros for exercise Cons for exercise
1.      Improves muscle strength and endurance

2.      Healthy way to beat boredom

3.      Helps you sleep better

4.      Makes you sexier

5.      Burns excess calories

6.      Boosts metabolism

7.      Reduces stress

1.      Doesn’t guarantee a healthy body weight

2.      Requires hours of exercise time before you see results

3.      May turn out to be more expensive

4.      Those who are older or have medical conditions may not be able to exercise

5.      Studies on exercise preventing cancer are less conclusive

Exercise or healthy eating: which is more important? What is healthy? Get your answers to your burning questions. You may be surprised @carobcherub

One primary benefit of exercise over healthy eating is that it burns calories. Those who exercise burn more calories—both during and after activity. Those who have more muscle mass have a higher resting metabolic rate. This means they burn more calories when they’re resting.

Exercise can also be a hobby. Cycling, roller blading, skiing and lifting weights can all add enjoyment to life. I wouldn’t say the same for eating.

A third benefit of exercise? It builds and tones muscle. Individuals who exercise tend to look sexier and more toned than those who don’t.

But unlike healthy eating, there are downsides to exercising, too.

Exercise alone doesn’t guarantee a healthy weight. Individuals who exercise but don’t eat right can still be overweight.

Next, exercise can cost you both time and money. You need to set aside time to exercise, and you might need to buy or rent workout videos, equipment or gym memberships.

A third downfall of exercise is not everybody can do it. You may not be able to exercise if you have a disability or preexisting medical condition.


Exercise and healthy eating was a tight comparison. But there is a winner: healthy eating.

Many people, despite being active, can’t maintain healthy weights. A big red strike for exercise.

On the other hand, vegetarians are more likely to have a lower BMI than non-vegetarians. And strict vegetarians have lower BMIs than vegetarians.

Both physical activity and low body weight are predictors of living a long and healthy life. The consensus is that healthy eating is more important for maintaining a healthy weight.

But don’t let that stop you from doing both. Exercising and eating healthfully will increase the quality and span of your life.

Do you question what's healthy? Organic? Low fat? Exercise? Clean eating? Get your answers to your burning questions. You may be surprised. @carobcherub
  • Updated 3 years ago
Sara Binde

Sara is a health and nutrition coach. She advocates for a whole foods plant-based lifestyle and teaches the world how to achieve weight loss.