After an intense masturbation session, your heart rate is elevated and you’re sweating like you just ran a mile. It may feel like you’re doing a lot, but that energy expenditure may not be as intense as it feels, unfortunately.
Partner sex may take a bit more energy, but you’re still only burning around 4.2 calories a minute, according to a small study done by scientists at the University of Montreal in 2013. Pair that with the point that sex typically only lasts for 5.4 minutes, and you’re probably not getting the workout you thought you were getting. For reference, a normal high-intensity exercise session would typically cause a calorie burn of about 9.2 calories per minute (that’s an estimate: these studies are very limited, and more research needs to be done). While you’re burning more than you would then you would simply lounging around, you’re probably not burning enough for it there to be substantial calorie expenditure.
“I have never seen a reliable estimate of calories burned during sex, much less masturbation. Some scientists have estimated from heart rate and similar, but such estimates are not reliably related to calories,” says sex researcher Nicole Prause, Ph.D. “We do not even know how long masturbation typically lasts to be able to compare the duration with sex.”
However, sexual arousal does repress the “hunger” hormone ghrelin, so it could reduce hunger, Prause says. But, again, more studies need to be done on this to determine if this is a legitimate route for masturbation to aid in weight loss.
What Are Other Health Benefits of Masturbation?
Just because masturbation may not aid in weight loss doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. “Masturbation to orgasm is hardly ever studied experimentally, which is required to show that masturbation caused benefits, but there are numerous positive associations,” says Prause.
Masturbation to climax increase oxytocin and prolactin release, which may cause feelings of relaxation and happiness after orgasm. It’s also been seen to increase sleep latency in animals, and is expected to have a similar response in humans.
“Those who masturbate more often also have been demonstrated to have higher self-esteem, more orgasms more consistently, higher relationship and sexual satisfaction, healthier sperm,” says Prause. Those are benefits worth investing in no matter what happens to your weight.
Cori Ritchey, NASM-CPT is an Associate Health & Fitness Editor at Men’s Health and a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. You can find more of her work in HealthCentral, Livestrong, Self, and others.