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Obesity Tied to Poorer Sexual Health, Exercise Can Help


New research from Paris, France has found that obesity has a strong influence on people’s sexual lives. In a report published in the June 16 online edition of the British Medical Journal, being obese is linked to reduced sexual activity and poorer sexual health among both men and women. However, a separate study found that exercise can help, particularly in men.

Nathalie Bajos, an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and research director at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, and colleagues collected data on the sexual behavior of more than 12,000 French men and women of varying weight statuses. Compared with those who were of normal weight, obese women were 30% less likely to have had a sex partner in the past year, while obese men were 70% less likely to have had more than one sex partner over the same period.

In addition, obesity leads some to riskier sexual health practices. For example, obese women are five times more likely to find sexual partners via the Internet, according to Bajos. “Because of their obesity, they are not comfortable meeting men through friends, through work, through parties,” she said. Obese men, particularly those under 30, are at a 10-time greater risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

Read: Weight Loss Surgery May Lead to Better Sex

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Women who are obese are also often less likely to seek contraceptive advice or use oral contraceptives, and were therefore had a greater risk of an unintended pregnancy. The rate of unplanned pregnancy among obese women is four times that of normal-weight women. The reasons for this are likely complex, according to an accompanying editorial by Dr. Sandy Goldbeck-Wood, associate specialist in psychosexual medicine. “We need to understand more about how obese people feel about their sex lives and what drives the observed behaviors and attitudes,” she said.

The study focused on sexual behaviors in obese men and women, but the physical challenges of being overweight can also affect people. Obese people are at a greater risk for diabetes, depression and urinary stress incontinence, all of which hinder sexual activity. Obese men, for example, are at a 2.5 time greater risk for experiencing erectile dysfunction than normal-weight men.

Read: Benefits of Exercise for Prostate and Erectile Dysfunction

Is there a reliable method for improving sexual health in men and women? A non-related study from Duke University Medical Center found that exercise can improve sexual health, especially in men. The study findings, released at the recent annual meeting of the American Urological Association in San Francisco, found that men who were moderately active (the equivalent of walking briskly 30 minutes a day, four days a week) were about two-thirds less likely to have sexual dysfunction than those who were sedentary.

Although the Duke study findings were related to men’s health, many studies have found that regular exercise can lead to weight loss, improvement in chronic health disease risks such as lowered blood sugar and lipid levels, and can relieve depression, so it is safe to say that the findings could be relatable to improving sexual health in women as well.