We’re used to euphemisms which compare sex to a good, sweaty workout – and if you’ve ever read a tabloid paper, you’re probably familiar with the idea of sex as an exercise replacement, too. Every once in a while a story will pop up, exalting sex’s muscle-building, calorie-burning potential. But is this just wishful thinking, or can getting jiggy really tackle your jiggly bits?
The Heart-Healthy Benefits of Sex
We’ve written before about the health benefits of sex – there’s no doubt that sex can have physical, as well as emotional benefits as we age. Having sex can lower blood pressure, improve stress response and help you stay connected to your partner (and having healthy relationships has a host of health benefits, in and of itself). But that doesn’t necessarily mean that having sex is actually good exercise.
A study of 22 heterosexual Canadian couples found that, rather than being the saucy sweatfest the Daily Mail tends to assume, most couples have rather less ‘active’ intercourse – with the young couples who participated burning 69.1 calories (for women) and 101 calories (for men) per session. It’s worth bearing in mind that sex sessions varied in length from ten minutes to 57 minutes across the couples, and this calorie expenditure compares to 276 calories per half an hour of exercise for men, and 213 calories for women.
So, clearly, sex isn’t as demanding as hitting the gym – but does that mean it’s hopeless for helping us to lose weight?
Burning Fat by Getting Busy
Simply put, no. An active sex life can help you to burn calories – after all, it’s a lot more fun than going for a run, and you’re more likely to want to keep at it regularly. It may not be able to replace your 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week (you can consider that a challenge issued!), but it can certainly support it, and there are some things you can try during sex to increase your energy expenditure. Ok, so the last thing you want to focus on when you’re getting down and dirty is counting your hip thrusts, but the key to maximizing calorie burn during sex is, as with any work out, to introduce new positions and techniques all the time – adding an extra incentive to keep things fresh between the sheets.
Mixing up positions ensures that you’re hitting a range of different muscles, and common sense dictates that certain positions are going to have greater calorie-burning payoff than others. Standing sex, for example, is always going to involve rather more exertion than missionary, or letting your partner take a turn on top. If you’re curious as to how many calories you could potentially burn through different positions, try this handy sex calculator and get practicing – we can’t vouch for its scientific accuracy, but trying a few new moves is certainly going to do you more good than harm!
Sex is one of life’s great pleasures, and staying active (in every sense of the word) is important as we age. So try some new moves, make time for your partner and, most importantly, have fun with your sex life – there’s nothing to lose (except the odd extra calorie!).