How can obese men revive their sex lives? Exercise more and eat less.

A new study reports that one third of obese men with erectile dysfunction, or ED, regained sexual function after two years of treatment at a weight loss clinic.

Some experts say the finding is yet another reason to encourage their patients to lose weight and take on healthy habits. A healthy lifestyle will not only improve sexual function, but also provide myriad other benefits to the patient.

And the results are tangible, not only during the patient's physical exam, but also in the bedroom.

"If a patient is obese and has erectile dysfunction, losing weight has a positive effect of regaining sexual function in one in three patients," says Christopher S. Saigal, a urologist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles.

According to Ira Sharlip, assistant clinical professor of urology at the University of California at San Francisco, and spokesman for the American Urological Association, "There is increasing evidence that erectile dysfunction is not just a separate condition in itself, but is a marker of endothelial function (how well the cells that line blood vessels work) and cardiovascular disease in general."

Other experts also agree the risk factors associated with erectile dysfunction, including obesity, are similar to the risk factors for heart disease.

"From a clinical point of view it makes sense to say that erectile function can either be prevented or delayed or reduced by avoiding risk factors that include diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. It makes sense to say to patients, 'your choice for developing erectile function is reduced if you avoid these risk factors,' " says Sharlip.

Little Blue Pill or Lose Weight?

For some experts, this study suggests diagnosing Viagra is not the only — or the best — way to treat obese men with erectile dysfunction.

"So many men are reaching for instant solutions to their medical problems rather than making the harder and long term changes which lead to health promotion," says Eli Coleman, director, Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School. "Why lose weight when you can just take a pill to lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, increase your erectile capacity?"

Coleman has this recommendation for obese men with erectile dysfunction: "Lose weight and exercise. Not only will it possibly help their erections (unless there are other contributing factors), but will increase their chances of living healthier longer — thus retaining their sexual capacity till older age."