With more than half of the United States population on a diet, weight loss is clearly on our minds. But should you include sex in your weight management plan? We investigate.
Sex helps us burn calories. But the benefits don’t stop there.
Whether opting for a tried-and-tested Mediterrtanean diet or a relative newcomer, like intermittent fasting, as a nation we understand that our diet, our weight, and our health are intricately linked.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “physical activity is an important part of maintaining healthy weight, losing weight, and keeping extra weight off once it has been lost.”
The HSS recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week, but less than 25 percent of adults manage to hit this target.
Where does sex fit into this?
Well, sex is good for our health, it burns calories, and it makes us happy. You are, of course, unlikely to burn as many calories between the sheets as during a heavy gym session, but exercise alone may not be the panacea for weight loss we give it credit for, according to a recent study.
So, get ready to look at the obvious and some of the more surprising reasons why sex should be firmly integrated into our plan to reach and maintain a healthy weight, regardless of whether you are a gym buff or not.
Sex is exercise
In 2013, Prof. Antony D. Karelis — along with colleagues from the Université du Québec à Montréal in Canada — studied exactly how many calories we burn when we get our groove on.
Prof. Karelis explains in his article in the journal PLOS ONE that only a handful of studies have attempted to shine the spotlight on the physiological effects during partnered sex with human subjects. All previous studies showed an increase in heart rate.
For his study, Prof. Karelis worked with 21 heterosexual couples, aged between 18 and 35.
The couples were asked to have sex once per week for a period of 4 weeks, while wearing an activity tracker that allowed the research team to calculate how much energy they spent each time.
A sexual encounter included foreplay, intercourse, and at least one orgasm by either partner, then “ended at the couple’s discretion,” as the authors explain.
Here is what the team found.
Men burned on average 101 calories and women 69 calories when they had sex. The average intensity was higher than walking but lower than jogging, Prof. Karelis explains, putting it firmly in the category of moderate-intensity exercise.
This means that each time we have sex, it counts toward our 150 minutes of weekly exercise recommended by the HSS.
If that’s not appealing enough, the data revealed more.
‘More pleasant’ than a gym workout
The range of calories burned during sex varied considerably. At the lower end, men burned 13 calories and women 11.6, while at the top of the range, men shifted 306 calories and women 164.
Let’s look at these numbers into the context of how long each sexual encounter lasted. While the average duration of foreplay, intercourse, and orgasm was 24.7 minutes, the actual time the couples spent having sex ranged from 12.5 to 36.9 minutes.
Whether the top calorie-burners had more vigorous sex or just took their sweet time isn’t clear from the data, but we can draw some conclusions. If we want to increase our calorie loss during sex, we can either get more actively involved, keep at it for longer, or a combination of both.
Sex and weight management
Now that we’ve looked at the benefit of sex when it comes to burning calories and temporarily putting a halt on eating, how likely is it that we are going to lose weight by having sex?
That probably depends on how easy it is to incorporate sex into your personal schedule. Finding time to be romantic sounds easy, but the stark reality of busy lives make it less tenable for some.
However, it is worth reminding ourselves that sex has a plethora of health benefits, and, unlike a gym visit, you don’t have to stray far from your bedroom — or other location of personal preference — to make it happen.
So, if you are looking to shed a few pounds in the lead up to the peak holiday season, why not make the time to spend with your partner, enjoy sharing some intimate moments, and bask in the full effect that all that oxytocin and calorie loss will hopefully have on your scales.
You might find that your 2018 diet plan will easily accommodate sex as an indispensable component.