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Dissemination Centre

Addressing gender, fitness and health benefits

Date: 01 June 2016

Category: Obesity in men

In the United Kingdom 67% of men are overweight or obese. Weight is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 75% of premature deaths from coronary heart disease are men and twice as many middle-aged men than women have diabetes. Last year the Men’s Health Forum showed that weight loss programmes only helped 0.2% of the 14 million overweight and obese men in England. There are many reasons why men do not use these services an important factor seems to be that most weight loss services may not reflect the needs of men and tend not to appeal to them. One solution is to make weight loss services gender specific.

How to make weight loss services work for men  

Losing weight based on dietary changes alone does not appeal to men. Weight loss programmes for men should focus on improving health and fitness, rather than weight-loss and dieting. The Men’s Health Forum advises to avoid marketing and talking about weight loss but recommends instead concentrating on improving health and fitness. A male friendly approach is about paying as much attention to physical activity as dieting. 

Most men do not like strict diets and are somewhat anxious about looking thin, so it is important to remind men of the health gains associated with losing weight, for instance feeling fitter, coming off medication or reduced incidence of erectile dysfunction. 

Men are often motivated to act on their health when they have a health scare. After a scare, friends and family offer most support for men to act. If men have support from medical professionals, family and their peers, they are more likely to become healthy and fit. Once men are engaged, they are more likely than women to complete programmes and achieve their goals. Sports, sports settings and physical activity are not only important for improving fitness and engaging men, but also help to create peer support.

Men’s Health Forum and Practioners Guide on Weight Loss Services for Men   

The Men’s Health Forum is commissioned by Public Health England to work with local weight management teams in North Somerset, Cornwall and Hounslow to improve their community health improvement programmes. 

The work includes training on how to work effectively with men, adapting marketing materials to appeal to men and developing resources targeted at men. The programmes are currently being evaluated by Leeds Beckett University and initial findings show successful engagement with men and weight lost by the majority of participants. 

The Men’s Health Forum has published a practitioner’s guide with PHE. The guide ‘How to make weight loss service work for men’ gives Local Authorities, CCGs and commercial organisations insight, top tips and recommendations on the interventions, settings and resources that work for men. The approach is based on a systematic review of evaluated weight management programmes for men led by the University of Aberdeen, in which the Men’s Health Forum was the lay partner.

  • Summary:

    Losing weight through dietary changes alone doesn't appeal to men, so how can we tailor weight loss services effectively. 

About the author

Tracy Herd

Deputy Chief Executive of Men’s Health Forum

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