OK, the last thing you should be thinking about during sex is how many calories you're burning. And for the love of god, do not activate your activity tracker when you start getting it on. After a vigorous session of thrusting and crunching, however, the thought of how many calories does sex burn might cross your mind, especially if you're sweatier than after a standard gym workout.
Sexual intercourse does get your blood pumping, heart rate going, and the sex position might feel like some form of yoga but the calorie expenditure isn’t as high as you think and should not be replaced as your exercise for the day.
Results of calories burned during sex
During roughly 25 minutes of sex, men burn an average of 4.2 calories per minute and women 3.1 calories per minute, according to a 2013 study in the journal PLOS One. (FYI: That's about the same calorie burn, on a per-minute basis, you would experience running a 15-minute mile.)
For comparison's sake, the study's authors also had the subjects perform a 30-minute moderate-intensity workout on a treadmill; while running, men burned 9.2 calories per minute, women, 7.1.
Feel the burn
Why do men burn more calories than women? It's not because they're working harder (sorry, dudes). Size and composition both affect the number of calories a body burns; people who are typically larger or have more muscle are going to burn more calories, even at rest. Since men tend to have less body fat and more muscle than women, their calorie burn will naturally be higher.
Going longer or harder will always help you burn more calories, whether you're in the gym or between the sheets. How long or hard? That depends.
To be honest, those 2013 researchers were being a bit generous when tracking approximately 25 minutes of sex. A collection of sex therapists determined that "adequate" penetrative vaginal sex typically lasted three to seven minutes, while desirable sex lasted seven to 13 minutes, according to a 2008 report published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. A 2005 survey of 500 couples published in that same journal revealed that the average length of time between penetration and ejaculation is just more than five minutes.
More recently, a 2020 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that it takes heterosexual women, on average, 13.41 minutes to reach orgasm. Maybe that's why females in same-sex couples were found to have longer-lasting sex than other types of couples, in a study published in 2014 in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality.
Take it up a notch: how to burn more calories during sex
No one's saying you need to start engaging in marathon sex, but if you're looking to get a little more bang for your caloric buck in the bedroom, prolonging your romp will raise that number. Here are some other tips and tricks to some extra calories out of your sexual activity:
- Make it last longer
It goes without saying if sexual activity and foreplay last longer, you will get more calories burned. You don’t need to hold out for hours, but there’s also no sense in rushing to the grand finale either. You’ll get more burned calories by taking your time and you’ll leave your partner well pleased.
- Turn up the heat
Whether it’s a midsummer afternoon or the heater is turned on, the warmer it is the more you’ll sweat which results in more burned calories.
- Switch up your sex position
If you’re wanting a better workout during your sex session, try a different position other than the missionary postition. Not only does it keep things exciting in the bedroom, but positions like standing, doggy style, or bridge will give you a little extra burn in your legs and engage some more muscles.
As for intensity, the positions you and your partner contort yourself into and the specific moves you each make during sex will absolutely have an effect on how many calories you burn. Fun fact: Research dating back to the 1980s suggests that being on top requires more energy than being on the bottom, which makes sense, since the person on top is usually more in control of the motion. That's not to say people on the bottom aren't engaged. There's still a lot of crunching and thrusting that calls different muscle groups into play, but it just won't raise your heart rate in the same way as being on top—and a faster heart rate is what boosts your calorie burn potential.
Unfortunately, all this calorie-burning doesn't quite qualify sex as a workout—at least, not one you can swap for your traditional training session. But numbers aside, sex is always good for your health. So it’s okay if you’re not meeting your daily caloric expenditure or weight loss goals through sex. Sex has its other health benfits from releiving stress to boosting self-esteem. And if the choice is having sex or running a super-slow mile, the decision is pretty easy...isn't it?
We hope what you learn here will help you enjoy the decades of good living still ahead of you. Get Giddy with us and sign up to receive more newsletters like this!