Tiger Toning

Jumping into bed. Photo by Alice Hebb

“I’m no fancy city entrepreneur, but it seems to me there are three things that always make money: fitness, technology and sex. So I got to thinking, maybe I could design some sort of compact gadget you could wear (on an arm perhaps) that measures how many calories you burn during sex. I guess my question is how much health/fitness value does sex actually have? Is it even possible to measure or estimate one’s ‘workout’ in terms of calories burnt?” – Bang for your buck


This seems like a great time to tackle this question and give everyone something else to think about while they engage in heart rate accelerating Valentine’s Day celebrations—that’s sex in case I was being too cryptic.

The question, first of all, comes down to the measurement of calorie burning or energy usage in the body, which is difficult to determine even in the simplest of activities. There are estimates based on a person’s body composition, age, gender, etc., that can give a general idea of how many calories people burn during a specific activity. It is very difficult, however, to provide a definite number that accounts for all of the processes and interactions that occur within the body during any period, especially one as complicated as sex. Bleh, bleh, bleh, I know.

As with every great question, I turned to Google to lazily find the answer I was looking for, but in actuality, I just wanted to find a calorie burning calculator. Not only did I find something, but I found one that allows you to distinguish between foreplay and intercourse. I decided to enter a hypothetical male of 190 pounds and enter 15 minutes of foreplay and 15 minutes of intercourse (no judgements in any direction, I did it for comparison purposes). The calculator spit out 92 calories over a 30 minute period, with 31 calories burned due to foreplay (about two calories per minute) and 61 from intercourse (an estimated four calories per minute).

For comparison purposes, I entered some other activities to see what calorie counts it would spit out. I’m happy to report that your sexual exploits burn more calories than sleeping (approximately 1.3 calories per minute), but not much else. Walking a moderate pace uses up twice as many calories as sex; zumba moves up to almost four times as many calories burned; and running at a moderate pace gets you all the way to between five and six times as many calories burnt. How disappointing.

Here’s the problem, though, with online calculators. Sex is so vastly different for each person that it’s almost impossible to really say how it would compare in each individual. It has a disadvantage in the fact that it typically—but not always—takes place on a bed where movement is fairly constricted, thereby limiting potential energy usage. Also, there are different stages of intensity and everyone makes use of those in varying amounts. While some couples (or random hook-ups. Once again, no judgement) can go hard and fast for extended periods of time, some merely go through the motions and complete the act with minimal intensity. The calorie usage between these two groups would likely be very different.

To touch on the technology aspect, there are tools that could be used to estimate energy usage during a specific sexual episode, but these are loose approximations at best. Technology measuring physical activity is certainly getting better, but again, there is a lot going on during sex and I doubt there is much interest in adding invasive measurement to the equation.  An anal probe to measure internal body temperature may affect the mood ever so slightly, no matter what you’re into.

Sex certainly adds some extra energy to your day, but to say it is significant is probably a bit of a stretch. If you are slightly crazy in bed (my personal email is cghebb@dal.ca, if you’re interested), you may achieve the moderate-to-vigorous intensities of the Canadian activity guidelines, but most likely you are just getting all hot and sweaty for the pure pleasure of it. Poor you.


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Colin Hebb

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