You already know that satisfying your sexual urges can boost your mental health — not to mention levels of trust, intimacy, and love with a partner — but could it also bolster your fitness? If you’d like to think so, you’re not alone. (Remember when Khloe Kardashian shared that she uses a “sex calculator” to figure out how many calories she was torching?)
Here’s what experts have to say on the subject, as well as a few positions to try.
Do sex positions actually burn calories?
If you’re hoping there’s a way to turn a sweaty sex session into an alternative to hopping on a spin bike or going for a run, you might want to manage your expectations. “No single sex act is burning a ton of calories," admits personal trainer Charlene Ciardiello, CEO of the holistic fitness program Shut Up and Move.
Also, everyone's caloric burn is different. How much you’re torching really depends on your weight, the type of sex you’re having specifically, how active you are during the session, how long you’re doing it for, how high your heart rate gets, what your calorie burn is at rest — like any other form of exercise, says Ciardiello.
That said, a small 2013 study published in PLoS One, which looked at young people in their 20s, found that a vigorous 30-minute session could burn as much as 150 calories — the equivalent of jogging for 15 minutes.
Megwyn White, director of education at sex toy brand Satisfyer and certified clinical sexologist, breaks the findings down: “Say you went for 80 minutes. You and your partner can be expected to burn about 300 calories.” Of course, the average time for sex is far from the length of an episode of Ozark. Reality check: It’s actually just about 5.4 minutes, says White.
Positions that can help turn sex into a workout
Bearing that reality check in mind, there are techniques to help you transform sex into more of a workout by burning calories and improving your physical fitness in other ways — like strengthening your immune system, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, and amplifying stores of the relaxing, feel-good brain chemical serotonin, says Ciardiello.
The next time you’re getting it on, try the following sex positions to maximize the benefit.
Note: The following calorie burn approximations are based on the MET formula, where the number of calories burned = MET (short for “Metabolic Equivalent,” a unit of measurement used to describe how many calories are burned during an activity) x weight x time, and experts’ estimations accounted for heterosexual sex between a woman who weighs 150 pounds and a man weighing 195 pounds.
1. Doggy Style
A woman will burn approximately 98 calories, while a man will burn an estimated 150 calories during this naturally athletic position, in which the person doing the penetrating traditionally enters their partner, on all fours, from behind.
In addition to the caloric burn, you’re using your quads, hamstrings, core, arms, shoulders, biceps, and triceps, says Ciardiello.
She advises that the partner on the receiving end holds onto a wall, which can engage your shoulders, biceps, and triceps to burn even more calories.
“This position helps with adding extra G-spot stimulation and allows the receiver to explore clitoral stimulation with her free hand,” notes White. “A partner can also offer stimulation or use the support of a sexual wellness device like the Satisfyer Purple Pleasure lay-on vibrator.”
2. Cowgirl or Reverse Cowgirl
Whoever’s on the bottom isn’t getting much of a notable calorie burn in this position, says Ciardiello, but the partner on top — whether they’re facing toward or away (reverse) from their partner — will burn approximately 122 calories. “The muscles being used here are the legs — hammies and quads — glutes, and of course, your core,” she explains, advising that you flex your lower abs and pelvic muscles to get even more out of the position.
And to make it even more athletic, consider squatting (versus sitting on your knees) on top of your partner and moving your hips while you bounce up and down. “This gets the heart rate up and could help you burn up to 50 more calories, says Ciardiello.
And for extra pleasure, White recommends experimenting with leaning forward to aid in G-spot stimulation.
3. Ballet dancer
This standing position, in which the penetrating partner holds the receiving partner’s leg up and hooks it around their waist, burns approximately 78 calories for a woman and 198 for a man. It also requires more overall muscle activation and balance in regard to core strength and allows you to be face to face with your partner to help boost connection and intimacy while syncing your breath, explains White.
“Try resting a foot on top of a sink and lifting up onto the ball of the foot, depending on the height of your partner, of the standing leg to add extra muscle activation for the legs,” she recommends.
4. The Bridge
The very same bridge pose you do for spinal mobility or in yoga class can be used in the bedroom as a challenging way to receive G-spot stimulation. Women will also burn about 85 calories, while men will burn 60. “The legs, glutes, core, and back extensors are quite active in the bridge position,” explains White. “The pelvic floor muscles are also naturally engaged in supporting the height of the body and will help translate into stronger pressure around the penis as penetration occurs.”
For extra support in this pose, White recommends focusing on lengthening the spine and engaging your pelvic floor muscles while using your arms to press downward for extra support. If you get fatigued, you can also widen your legs to vary the weight on your legs.
A variation on missionary, Frog involves the receiving partner bending their knees and wrapping their legs around the giving partner whose goal it is to flatten their torso as much as possible, like they’re doing a plank. A woman in this position could burn as many as 122 calories here, while the man could torch about 44, says White.
“For him, it is incredibly similar to the plank position which offers a challenge for the abs and the legs, and for her it can be a great way to stretch the legs,” she explains. “It also means that both partners can gaze into each other’s eyes and sync up in breath.”
A more advanced standing position, Wheelbarrow involves the receiving partner to position themselves on the ground like they’re about to do a pushup. Then, the giving partner picks up their legs and enters from behind (like a wheelbarrow). Because it’s a more challenging position that requires a lot of muscle activation for the arms for the female, as well as core strength, it’s no wonder it burns approximately 120 calories for a woman and 150 for the man.
White suggests using your hamstrings to squeeze your legs around your partner to build strength in this position. (Just don’t squeeze so tightly that you limit your partner’s mobility.) Or you can widen your legs and draw in your core while extending your back to make it easier, she notes. “If you do get tired, you can vary this position by resting your torso at the end of a bed,” says White.
The upshot on burning calories in bed
While you might not be busting out your own sex calculator anytime soon, White says it can’t hurt to simply focus on engaging your whole body when you’re in the act. The more active a position — and/or longer you go at it — the more likely you are to enjoy the benefits of getting intimate and sneaking in a workout all at once.
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