scorecardHow many calories does sex burn? What the research says and how to burn more
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How many calories does sex burn? What the research says and how to burn more

Ashley Laderer   

How many calories does sex burn? What the research says and how to burn more
LifeScience4 min read
  • One study found that people burn about three to four calories per minute during sex.
  • Burn more calories during sex by getting on top and making the sex last longer.
  • Exercising before sex can increase arousal and burn additional calories.

Sex may feel like a workout sometimes, but just how many calories are you actually burning under the sheets?

Past research has concluded that sex equates to light to moderate exercise. Several more studies since then have been able to determine the average amount of calories burned during sex — and it's much less than going for a run or hitting the gym.

Important: The exact amount of calories sex can burn for you depends on weight, duration of sex, and other factors. Similar to measuring calorie expenditure for any physical activity, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

The good news is sex offers plenty of health benefits beyond calorie loss. That said, here are some insights from the latest research on how many calories you burn during sex.

How many calories does sex actually burn?

Research has found that men burn an average of 101 calories during sex, or about 4.2 calories burned per minute. Women burn an average of 69 calories during sex, or about 3.2 per minute.

These results are from a small 2013 study that compared the caloric burn young, healthy heterosexual couples experienced spending 25 minutes of having sex versus running on a treadmill for 30 minutes.

The researchers found that during the average sexual activity session — defined as foreplay, intercourse, and at least one partner's orgasm — men burned 101 calories, and women burned 69.1 calories.

Sex burned significantly less calories than when the same participants exercised on a treadmill — where men burned 9.2 calories per minute and women burned 7.1 calories per minute — more than twice as much as sex.

"There is some kind of energy expenditure [during sex] but it's not that big," says Antony Karelis, PhD, co-author of the study and a professor in the department of exercise science at the University of Quebec, Montreal.

Another 2013 review concluded similar results — a man in his 30s might only burn 21 calories during intercourse if he's having sex for six minutes.

Five to six minutes is about the average duration of sexual intercourse — not including foreplay. And, of course, calorie expenditure is individualized, meaning you may burn slightly more or fewer calories than these study participants.

How to burn more calories during sex

Let's get the obvious out of the way, first: Whoever is on top is probably doing most of the movement and will likely be expending more energy, meaning they will burn more calories.

So, if you're looking to burn a few more calories during sex, take charge and get on top, or have you and your partner take turns so you can both benefit. Breaking a sweat is a good indication that you're putting in work, says Karelis.

You can also make the sex session last longer in hopes of burning more calories, but that's easier said than done.

As for different positions, "it would be incredibly difficult for people to change sex in such a substantial way that it would be equivalent to a workout," says Debby Herbenick, PhD, professor of sexual and reproductive health at the Indiana University School of Public Health and author of "The Coregasm Workout: The Revolutionary Method for Better Sex Through Exercise."

Herbenick adds that "there are endless sex positions, and I recommend that people choose the ones that are pleasurable for them and their partner, not the one that will burn five or 10 more calories."

However, if you're looking to expand your library of sex positions to include those that call for more strength or cardio, you might try standing positions or those that require flexibility, such as the wheelbarrow.

Quick tip: Exercise itself can enhance arousal, according to Herbenick. You can exercise with your partner before sex as some real calorie-burning foreplay, and then focus on simply enjoying sex.

Don't forget about the other benefits of sex

There are numerous health benefits of sex beyond calorie burning.

If you're feeling disappointed that sex doesn't burn as many calories as you'd hoped, consider that a healthy sex life can bring many more physical and mental health benefits.

Sex can help:

Insider's takeaway

Overall, research has found that sex can be equivalent to light to moderate exercise.

One study showed that men burned about 101 calories during sex, or 4.2 calories per minute. Women burned about 69 calories during sex, or 3.1 calories per minute.

To burn more calories during sex, get on top and try lasting longer. It's also a good idea to exercise before sex, as you'll increase arousal and burn far more calories in total.