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Obesity Myth #7: Sex Helps Burn Calories

Continuing in this series of obesity myths in the New England Journal of Medicine paper, I am not even sure why the authors thought this myth important enough to include.

Frankly, I was not even aware that this “myth” existed – perhaps, because even the premise of this myth seems so ridiculous.

According to the authors, Obesity Myth #7 states that,

“A bout of sexual activity burns 100 to 300 kcal for each person involved.”

Anyone, who has ever tried burning 300 calories on a treadmill will realise that sexual activity (at least for most people) comes nowhere close to that kind of exertion.

Or, as the authors put it,

“…a man weighing 154 lb (70 kg) would, at 3 METs, expend approximately 3.5 kcal per minute (210 kcal per hour) during a stimulation and orgasm session.”


“Given that the average bout of sexual activity lasts about 6 minutes, a man in his early-to-mid 30s might expend approximately 21 kcal during sexual intercourse.”

This, the authors calculate, is only about 14 Cal more than he would have spent watching 6 mins of TV.

Or, approximately the number of calories you’d get by biting into an apple – go figure!

I wonder what dispelling this myth does for tackling the obesity problem – except perhaps to illustrate the point that we generally overestimate the calories burnt with physical activity.

Edmonton, AB


  1. Are you suggesting all those lonely hearts out there settle for eating an apple on Valentine’s Day?

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  2. “Frankly, I was not even aware that this “myth” existed – perhaps, because even the premise of this myth seems so ridiculous.”

    This is evidence that you must have a dreadfully HONEST relationship with your significant whoever. “Hey, baby, it’s the easiest 300 calories you’ll ever burn” is the modern-day replacement for the 1960 myth, “Any minute there could be a nuclear attack. We need to get busy.”

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  3. Certain tantra practices can go for hours – I supose this would displace snack and meal times and thefore decrease total kcals per day/week (potentially). Although this is like comparing the ultra marathon runner to the average friday night.

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  4. I seem to remember, many years ago, a diet called “Grab Your Mate Instead of Your Plate”. The idea was that you’d substitute sex for mindless snacking, an approach which might be effective.

    But I always wondered who these super-humans were who could burn major calories through sex!

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  5. I refuse to believe it! That’s one of my favorite myths.

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  6. What’s funny is that in their calculation an “average sexual bout” lasts only 6 minutes. If that burns 21 kCal, a more intense 1 hour session would thus burn 210kCal, which is much closer to the myth. Sure, 1 hour of treadmill burns between 600 and 800kcal, but an hour of sex a day could be an interesting addition to a diet, thats 6000kcal burnt a month. Better to have an hour of sex everyday than to go to the gym twice a eek!

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