In a small 2013 study of 21 straight, healthy couples in their early 20s, researchers found that on average men burned 101 calories (4.2 cals/min) and women burned 69 calories (3.1 cals/min) during 24-minute sex sessions (including foreplay). Participants wore armbands to track activity and measure calories burned during four sexual acts.
Researchers concluded that sex can sometimes be considered a “significant exercise.” But TBH, the couples in this study seemed to be spending more time doing the deed than average.
In a 2013 review, researchers claimed burning 100 to 300 calories during sex is a myth. According to their research, a 150-pound man working at a moderate intensity would burn 3.5 cals/min during sex, which is similar to walking at a 3 mile-per-hour pace. However, since sex on average lasts 5 to 6 minutes, that adds up to just 21 calories burned during an average sexcapade.
They also note that just watching TV for 6 minutes expends one-third of that (7 cals) — probably to make the point that sex isn’t typically a calorie-torching workout.
The bottom line on calories burned during sex
People may burn on average 3 to 4 cals/min during sex at moderate intensity.
While people often claim that you can burn 100 to 300 cals per sexual act, you’ll need to go for at least 25 mins to make that happen.
So, whether you’re going at it for 2 mins or 20, the length of time and intensity will affect how many calories you burn.
Want to boost calories burned while bumping and grinding? Here’s what to do:
- Go longer. OK, this one’s obvious. If you want to burn more calories, keep that (moderate to high) intensity action going for a longer time. Also, have it more often — just make sure your partner’s on board, first.
- Get sweaty. Maybe turn on a heater and roll around under the covers. When it’s hotter and sweatier, you’ll benefit from a slight calorie-burning boost. (And make sure you hydrate — it’s a workout after all.)
- Mix it up. Contorting into a pretzel, doing Downward-Facing Dog style, or trying some standing poses will give you a tougher workout than missionary.
Aside from feeling amazing, sex comes with health perks far better than burning a few calories:
- Healthy heart. A healthy sex life could make for a healthier heart. In a 2011 study, researchers concluded that men who had sex at least twice a week were less likely to develop heart disease (compared to men who had it once a month).
- Stress relief and bonding. After sex, the feel-good hormones oxytocin and prolactin are released. These hormones are linked to feelings of bonding, relaxation, and satisfaction.
- Better sleep. According to 2019 research, orgasming before you doze off leads to better sleep.
- Stronger pelvic floor. Pelvic floor muscles lend much-needed support for your bladder, bowel, and uterus. When they contract during intercourse, the vagina, anus, and urethra tighten up and these organs are lifted (which aids in bodily processes like healthy, easy peeing). A strong pelvic floor might also make things feel even more pleasurable during sex.
But unless you’re doing marathon sex seshes or contorting yourself like you’re in Cirque du Soleil (and if so, more power to you), don’t bank on it burning a ton of calories.
But hey, sex has a lot of other benefits aside from burning calories. Ultimately sex should be enjoyed, and not just another workout.