The health coaches are often asked the question, "Which is better, diet or exercise?"

We usually try to discover where the person is more ready to make a lifestyle change and encourage them to start with that. But new research suggests the answer is exactly what you always thought it would be: BOTH.

Scientists at Saint Louis University's department of nutrition and dietetics had three groups of middle aged people either cut 20 percent of their calories, exercise 20 percent more, or cut 10 percent of their calories and exercise 10 percent more. All three groups lost weight and improved their blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and resting heart rate; but the combination group lost weight more quickly and those people were also more likely to stick to their goals.

To be fair, the researchers said that you can get healthier by dieting, exercising or a combination of the two--as long as the outcome is that you lose some weight. The magnitude of benefit did not depend on what was done, just that something was done.

They did note, however, the adding exercise to diet does confer other benefits, for instance the combination group lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes more than either the dieters or the exercisers.

So if you can do both, do both! But if it's easier for you to drop junk food or increase walking, start there. When it comes to weight and health, commitment is more than half the battle.