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Sedentary lifestyle and excess belly fat increase erectile dysfunction risk

Friday, May 01, 2009 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD

Regular readers of our blog may recall my recent post on the association between erectile function, or the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse, and cardiovascular disease. It is now suggested that the onset of erectile dysfunction be used as an indicator that an individual is at significantly elevated risk of a cardiovascular event (heart attack) within 3-5 years.

While there are many risk factors for erectile dysfunction – most of which are also risk factors for cardiovascular disease – obesity is one of the most commonly cited. For example, numerous studies have previously shown that men with the largest body mass indexes (BMIs) are at greatest risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

However, it is also well know that the health risk associated with a given BMI or obesity level is mediated by many other factors – that is – not every obese person is necessarily at elevated risk of disease and mortality (see prior post on metabolically health obese). For instance, individuals who are physically active, despite being obese, may be at lower risk of disease compared to their lean but inactive counterparts. On the other hand, well established is the notion that regardless of BMI level, those with most of their fat deposited around the midsection are at particularly elevated health risk (see prior post on my prior study regarding abdominal obesity).

The Journal of Sexual Medicine just published a recent study I conducted along with Drs. Janssen and Ross, in which we investigated the association between physical activity levels, abdominal fat, and erectile dysfunction in 3,941 adult men from the 2001–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

First, our results suggest that men with a high BMI (>30kg/m2) or a high waist circumference (>102cm) – a measure of abdominal fat, have approximately 50% greater likelihood of having erectile dysfunction. Additionally, men who performed less that the recommended amount of moderate-intensity physical activity (<150>150 minutes per week) and maintaining a waist circumference below 102 cm is important for the maintenance of proper erectile function, regardless of BMI level.

This study is just another example of the emerging notion that excess weight, on its own, is rarely a great indicator of one’s health. Additionally, as I have previously posted on, positive lifestyle changes, such as increases in physical activity and improvements in diet, can lead to numerous health benefits even if the number on the bathroom scale refuses to budge.

If you are interested to read this study in full, or to peruse any of my or Travis’ other scientific publications, please check the links provided under our “Publications” tab on the left. Or, to receive posts on the latest obesity news and research, enter your email address in the "Subscribe Via Email" box in the upper right-hand corner of the blog.

Have a great weekend,


Related Posts:
1. Physical Activity in the Treatment of Obesity Related Health Risk: Is Weight Loss the Optimal Target?
2. What Does the Function of Your Penis Tell You About Your Cardiovascular Health?
3. Kingston Seniors Get Fit For Research

Janiszewski, P., Janssen, I., & Ross, R. (2009). Abdominal Obesity and Physical Inactivity Are Associated with Erectile Dysfunction Independent of Body Mass Index Journal of Sexual Medicine DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01302.x

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2 Response to "Sedentary lifestyle and excess belly fat increase erectile dysfunction risk"

  1. Dr. Sean Wharton, MD, PharmD, FRCPC Said,

    Great article Peter. I think we all thought that this would be the case, as central adiposity increase inflammation and this effects many functions in the body, and this should probably include erectile funtion.
    Thanks, and will follow your work.

    Posted on May 4, 2009 at 1:10 AM

  2. Erectile dysfunction Said,

    Most people think it only happens with older people until it happens to you. Almost 15% of men have sometime in their life has some sort of erectile dysfunction, while men in their sixties this can go up to 75%

    Posted on May 6, 2009 at 5:37 AM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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