How Much of a Workout is Sex, Really?

Unsurprisingly, most of us believe we’re doing more between the sheets than we really are.


Sex has lots of benefits besides just feeling good: It can help ease depression, relieve pain and even reduce the appearance of wrinkles. But one of the main benefits of sex we often hear about is that it’s a great workout, with the potential to replace not-quite-as-fun time spent on the treadmill. Bad news alert: Unfortunately, that’s not the case, according to a 2013 study titled Energy Expenditure during Sexual Activity in Young Healthy Couples.

During the study, researchers used a SenseWear armband (a wearable device that assesses energy expenditure) to measure the effects of sex on 21 young couples. They found that sex lasted for 24.7 minutes on average, with men burning up to 101 calories and women burning 70. To put that in perspective, a 155-pound man can burn three times as many calories during a leisurely 30-minute jog. More depressingly, eating something as snack-ish as a small bag of chips (which contains about 140 calories) will pack those calories right back on.

Another 2013 study found even more lamentable results: For the average couple, sex lasts just six minutes and burns only 21 calories — that’s a mere 3.5 calories per minute (the study assumes that sex is about as intense as walking at a 2.5-mph pace, which again, is apparently average). Also worth keeping in mind: It’s likely that both studies are overestimating how many calories sex burns on average, since the sex was probably more energetic than usual due to the fact the participants knew they were being monitored (and wanted to impress).

All that said, the number of calories you burn in the sack depends entirely on intensity and duration, so as they say, you’re the master of your own fate. If you think you can adequately replace your weekly trips to the gym with lengthy bouts of gymnastic sex, we say godspeed (and make sure your bed is nice and sturdy).