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To determine whether sexual activity checks the workout box, researchers at the University of Almería and University of Murcia in Spain analyzed the results of 18 studies on the topic.

It turns out, the results are murky — not least because the studies primarily involved committed, usually married, heterosexual couples. In some studies, couples wore trackers (such as a heart-rate monitor); in others, the couples were filmed. The subjects’ sexual exertions were usually observed in a lab, but occasionally the acts took place in the subjects’ homes. Duration was defined as starting with foreplay and ending with the male orgasm.

Despite the varying methods, the researchers found some notable patterns. Their results, published in 2022 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, showed that a bout of carnal activity potentially burns up to 100 calories per session and raises the heart rate up to an average of 90 to 130 beats per minute — roughly what you’d get from a nine-minute moderately paced cardio session.

That said, those numbers varied widely depending on factors like health status, intercourse position, and activity duration.

All in all, “sexual activity can cause physical demands of moderate or even vigorous intensity,” says José Muyor, MS, PhD, a professor at the University of Almería’s Health Research Centre, who led the review.

The keyword here is can. Just because a bout of intercourse can raise your heart rate almost as much as a jog doesn’t mean it will — nor does it mean you should equate the two.

Our advice? Don’t worry about logging sex as exercise (as tempting as the “start a workout” function on your smartwatch might be) and enjoy the experience for what it hopefully is: pleasurable, passionate, and maybe even a little goofy.

For more on this topic, visit “4 Ways Exercise Makes Sex Better” from which this article was excerpted from.

Andrew Heffernan

Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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