Twice as many dieters count calories to lose weight rather than exercise, a poll has found.
Counting calories may be seen as an easier way to weight loss
Calorie counting is most popular with women - half opt to count their food intake, compared with a third of men.
Yet 59% of the 2,000 people surveyed by GlaxoSmithKline Nutritional Healthcare realised exercise makes the greater contribution to personal health.
More choice in low-calorie foods means people are giving up exercise in favour of consuming less, nutritionists say.
John Brewer, GSK Sports Scientist, said: "The trend of people swapping the gym for a low calorie meal is very worrying.
"Consuming fewer calories is no substitute for exercise. We cannot afford to become a nation of calorie-counting couch potatoes - the benefits of leading active lives are enormous."
Graham Neale of GSK Nutritional Healthcare said diet food manufacturers had a responsibility to consumers.
He said: "With food and drink manufacturers broadening their 'diet' ranges, we need a concerted effort to encourage consumers to focus as much on 'energy out' as 'energy in'."
Little and often
Charlene Shoneye, research dietician at Weight Concern, said: "I'm not surprised by the results.
"A lot of people find the idea of going to the gym quite daunting and so reducing calorie intake seems to be an easier option.
Burning calories in exercise is vital, nutritionists say
"A recent survey found only 12% of the population are gym members.
"We promote physical activity as opposed to going to the gym per se. Things like taking the stairs instead of using the lift and walking when ever possible to increase your energy expenditure throughout the day.
"The recommendation is 60 minutes of activity a day. That can be done in smaller slots.
"There are so many low calorie, low fat products out there...and calorie counting is important, but so is exercising.
"Physical activity has health benefits other than weight loss."