How Your Weight Can Affect Your Sex Life

Lean how excess abdominal fat, in particular, is associated with certain health risks among men.

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Medically reviewed in June 2022

Updated on March 21, 2022

It's well-established that maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk for several chronic diseases. But some people may not realize that it can also help keep your libido strong. And for men, taking steps to address excess abdominal, or belly fat, in particular, can help avoid sexual dysfuntion. It's estimated that 1 in 10 men worldwide suffers from erectile dysfunction (ED), which is an inability to get or maintain an erection. For some, abdominal fat may play a role. Why?

Deep abdominal fat, known as omentum fat, takes up residence around the liver and other vital organs. When fat is released from the omentum, some of it goes straight to the liver and then on to the arteries. And omentum fat can do serious damage to the blood vessels. Clogged arteries and blood vessels reduce blood flow not just to the heart but also to other critical organs, including the genitals. Without good circulation, men may have trouble getting or maintaining an erection. And both men and women need increased blood flow in sensitive areas to maximize sexual pleasure.

The good news? Even small changes can help. Try these:

Walk more. Walking is one of the best exercises for minimizing that gut. Taking a brisk 30-minute walk every day helps keep your fat cells from expanding. Burn even more belly fat by adding 10 minutes of weight training twice a week; increasing muscle mass will whittle your middle even faster.

Be mindful of your waistline. Waist size may be a better indicator of health than the numbers on your bathroom scale. Your waist should be a little less than half the number of inches in your height. And as a general rule, anytime a man's waist size reaches 40 inches, his health and sex life are at risk. For women, risks increase with a waiste measurement of more than 36 inches. 

Follow a healthy diet. When it comes to foods that burn belly fat, you can't beat whole grains. And it's a pretty simple trade-off. Just replace most of the processed or sugary foods in your diet and focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. 

Get enough quality sleep. Most adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Research suggets a strong link between healthy sleep and a healthy weight. In one study, dieters who slept eight and a half hours a night lost twice as much fat and retained more lean muscle compared with the folks in the study who slept only five and half hours nightly. The longer sleepers also burned an extra 114 calories a day. That type of additional calorie burn can translate into as much as 10 extra pounds lost in one year.

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