So going for a walk may not seem like that much fun, what about sexercise? An average session burns more calories than a walk (but less than a jog).
The idea that sex can help burn off calories has long been a staple of magazines and daytime chat shows. But it’s always been a fairly comical approach and it’s only now that someone has accurately measured how many calories are expended during sex.
Research looked at 21 young couples, their energy expenditure during sex was measured and compared with 30 minutes of moderate intensity on a treadmill.
So did sex match the treadmill in terms of energy expenditure? The short answer is no, at least not in this small and strictly defined group. Sexercise burned around two-thirds less than moderate intensity activity.
But, surprise surprise… “almost all of the participants reported that sexual activity was more pleasant than the treadmill exercise”
Why you might want to investigate this from a medical point of view is perhaps less obvious. The authors describe how health professionals are beginning to recognise that sexual activity could have an important influence on overall health and quality of life. The rationale seemed to be aimed at getting a better idea of the extent to which sex was or could contribute to recommended levels of physical activity in young people, and how it measured up to other activities like jogging.
The main analysis compared the duration and intensity of the average sex session to the endurance exercise.
- The average length of a sexual activity was 24.7 minutes (range 10 to 57 minutes).
- Average energy expenditure during sexual activity was 101 calories (4.2 calories per minute) in men, higher than that seen in women at 69.1 calories (3.1 calories per minute).
- Energy expenditure through sexual activity was significantly less than the energy expended during the 30 minutes of exercise – which was 276 calories (9.2 calories per minute) for men and 213 calories (7.1 calories per minute) for women.
- Average sexual activity intensity was 6.0 METs (energy cost) in men and 5.6 METs in women, which represents a moderate intensity of exertion. This was again less than the intensity of the endurance exercise in men 8.5 METs and women 8.4 METs.
- The highest range value achieved by men for absolute energy expenditure during sexual activity (306 calories) can potentially be higher than that of the mean absolute energy expenditure of the 30-minute exercise session (276 calories), whereas this was not observed in women.
- Only 5% of all participants reported that sexual activity was more strenuous when compared to the 30-minute treadmill exercise.
These results suggest that sexual activity may potentially be considered, at times, as a significant exercise.
In their discussion of the intensity of the exercise, the researchers’ reported the level of intensity that is exerted from sexual activity “could be” higher than walking at 4.8 km/hour but lower to that of jogging at 8 km/hour. And that the level of intensity of sexual activity in the study “may give health professionals a better understanding on the potential risk for myocardial infarction in cardiac patients since this topic appears to be a preoccupation in the field of medicine.”
The practical implications of the research aren’t too clear. The results may be of more interest on a sociological level; we may live in a more open society compared to the past but the nitty gritty of sex, all the personal details, remain very much a taboo subject for many people.
Frapper J, Toubin I, Levy J J. Energy Expenditure during Sexual Activity in Young Healthy Couples. PLOS One. Published online October 29 2013
- Sex burns 3.6 calories a minute. (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- Study: Men Burn More Calories, Energy During Sex Than Women (atlanta.cbslocal.com)
- Energy Expenditure during Sexual Activity in Young Healthy Couples (plosone.org)
- Sexercise? Getting Busy Burns Calories, Study Finds (livescience.com)
- Sex Burns More Calories Than Previously Thought (counselheal.com)