7 (surprising) ways weight loss can improve your life

We all know losing weight can reduce risk for chronic diseases… but you might not have considered these lesser-known benefits on your life. 

1. You’ll sleep better
And your partner probably will, too! If you’re overweight, you’re probably no stranger to being told you snore … and you may even suffer from sleep apnoea, as obesity is linked to more fat around the neck, which can obstruct airways. So it’s a no-brainer that weight loss helps reduce sleep disturbances, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

2. You’ll have better sex
There’s no doubt about it: weight can be a passion killer. Overweight blokes can suffer lower levels of testosterone and a raised risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) simply because the weight interferes with blood flow to the penis. Similarly, women who carry extra kilos can also suffer from reduced sexual responsiveness, because the blood vessels leading to the clitoris can be affected by poor blood flow. But there’s good news for both sexes: an Irish study found that weight loss raised testosterone levels by up to 15 per cent and a small Aussie study on obese men with diabetes found that losing just 5-10 per cent of body weight improved both sexual function and libido. For women, weight loss can lead to easier arousal and also, more desire.

3. You’ll be sharper
According to a study at Kent State University, losing weight can improve memory and concentration. The study focussed on patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery and found that 12 weeks after their surgery they showed improvement in memory and on cognitive tests. Despite obesity being a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, experts still aren’t sure why weight issues can affect brain function. At any rate, losing weight can only be a good thing for your noggin, says study psychologist John Gunstad. "I think one of the important take-home messages for this study," he said, "is really just a reminder for individuals that if you take care of your body, you're also taking care of your brain."

4. You’ll have a healthier smile
Believe it or not, weight loss can be good for your gums, too. A study at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Dental Medicine found that the body better fights gum disease when fat cells – which trigger inflammation – reduce or disappear. The research focussed on those who had weight loss surgery and found they had less swelling, redness and bleeding than an overweight control group who had periodontal treatment but without weight loss surgery.

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Weight training is a great way to lose weight

5. You’ll have better bladder control
Experts say excess weight can increase the pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor, leading to the kind of embarrassing incontinence episodes we’d all like to avoid. In a study of 2500 men and women who had bariatric surgery for weight loss, nearly half the women suffered incontinence, but a year after the surgery that statistic dropped to 18 per cent. Commenting on the study, Dr Holly Richter, a urogynecologist at the University of Alabama, said it’s true bariatric surgery can have significant effects on health, adding, “Weight loss is a proven treatment for urinary incontinence.”

6. You’ll probably have fewer aches and pains
One of the best knock-on effects of losing weight? Feeling younger. Less aches and pains, less twinges – because when you’re overweight, your joints, knees and hips bear most of the load, say experts. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, dropping just 10 per cent of your body weight could make a huge difference in knee pain alone. “The people who had the most improvement in pain and function were the ones who followed both a diet and exercise program,” said Dr Richard Loeser, who led the study.

7. You may be able to give up your meds
We all know that losing weight reduces your risk factors for a whole range of conditions, but if you’re on medication for existing conditions you may be able to cut down on doses or eliminate them altogether, say experts. Similarly, if your GP has told you that you’re pre-diabetic, losing weight may help you completely turn it around. Approximately one in three pre-diabetic people will go on to develop type 2 diabetes, according to Diabetes Australia (and around 2 million people in Australia have the condition), but strong evidence shows that type 2 diabetes can be prevented in up to 58 per cent of cases simply by eating well, exercising and losing weight.

What are your top weight-loss tips? Share in the comments below.

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