Is It True: That Sex Actually Counts As Good Exercise?

Sex, say philosophers – and pleasure in general – is an attempt to distract one’s self from the looming inevitability of death (quite literally so, since it’s vital in creating life). Of course, one doesn’t need to be a philosopher or a biologist to see the obvious benefits in sex (unless you happen to just not be interested in it).

Of course, none of this stops people from being concerned about whether sex is actually good for you – and not just because they think that merely hearing the word can lead to irredeemable, irreversible moral corruption. A particularly persistent topic is that of ‘sexercise’. “What are the health benefits of sex?,” they ask. “Is there more to sausage metaphors than just juvenile humour, and will having too much of it make my heart pop?” Or, if you’re the glass-half-full variety, you may find yourself asking, “Is there any way sex can help me avoid working out?” Exercise is seldom as fun as sex, after all.

Well, you’re in luck, for we are here to answer the question once and for all – does sex count as exercise?

Turns out, as with most questions to do with sex (especially the ones that come after), the answer isn’t quite straight. A study published in the PLOS ONE journal, conducted among 21 healthy and sexually active heterosexual couples, found that on average, the men burned 4.2 calories per minute during sex, and the women 3.1 calories. By contrast, the men used up as many as 9.2 calories per minute while jogging on a treadmill, while the women used up 7.1 calories per minute. On average, sex took them around 25 minutes – meaning a total of 101 calories burned for men in one go-around, and 70 for women.

While clearly the benefits – the energy-burning benefits, anyway – don’t match up to a good 30-minute jog, the researchers were still impressed by the amount of energy these enterprising couples spent – going so far as to classify sex as “moderate intensity” exercise.

But here’s the catch – not only is this study strictly limited to heterosexual couples (there’s no accounting for taste, after all), it also assumes that you’ll last a good 25 minutes – and that you’ll have decent technique. The more energetic you are, the more calories you’ll burn – that sounds like a no-brainer. But for those who aren’t as gifted, sex on average lasts six minutes, and burns only around 3.5 calories per minute, according to this study published in the New England Journal Of Medicine.

For you glass-half-full type still reading this post, it’s not all bad. Sexual activity has been correlated with several other health benefits, from reduced stress to improved sleep to (to bring this article full circle) increased longevity.

But if you’re looking to shed some calories and get into shape, you’re better off hitting the gym.