Masturbate_burn_calories_jerk_off

How Many Calories Does Masturbation Burn? We Did the Math

Jacking off may feel like working out, but don’t flatter yourself — it’s actually one of the least effective ways to burn calories

When it comes to masturbation during the Great Quarantine of 2020, many of us have gone from student filmmaker to Fellini in just a few weeks. Between rubbing one out five times a day, engaging in solo tugs of war that last three hours and graphing our masturbation habits in increasingly specific data viz projects, those among us who are still mustering up a libido seem to be getting plenty of practice.

This is a good thing because it means people are getting off without spreading potentially fatal viruses, but also because masturbation counts as a tiny form of exercise. And when your pandemic days are spent consuming a lifetime’s worth of TV in just a few months — and gaining what’s now being called “the Quarantine 15” in the process — even the slightest offloading of calories can help. As Evan Lawrence, a personal trainer and licensed mental health counselor puts it, “Any activity is good activity.”

There’s just one, um, small problem: How many calories masturbation actually burns is among the great mysteries of human history. Estimates vary wildly and uncertainty abounds — one expert source tells Allure that in terms of caloric exertion, it’s probably closer to chewing gum than anything else. Healthline estimates that the total number of calories burned during masturbation is between five and six, while Women’s Health says that just the orgasm part burns four. Meanwhile, ZALO USA, a vibrator company, concludes based on its own research that women in particular might burn about 18 calories across three minutes when using their toy on themselves. That’s to say nothing of what they’d burn while using their hands — or what a man might burn while jimmying his jimmy. 

This kind of variation in masturbation calorie science is nothing short of preposterous. So, since no one’s been able to come up with a stable number, I decided I’d do it myself. (What else was I gonna do? Jerk off? Again?)

Using excessive generalities reminiscent of presidential campaign messaging standards, I began my journey with an inquiry into heart rate, a common metric used to estimate calories burned during physical activity. To that end, Active.com has created a target heart rate calculator, where users punch in their age and “level of exercise,” which is quantified by the percentage of a person’s maximum heart rate.

Finding out the heart rate a person might attain during masturbation was difficult, as believe it or not, there just don’t appear to be many studies on this particular sex act’s fitness benefits. The best I could do was go by one study of just 22 people that was conducted back in 1982. It showed the mean heart rate during a masturbation session clocks in at 118 beats per minute, which, actually, isn’t a terrible workout.

Lawrence says that when he has a client doing cardiovascular exercises, he looks to boost their heart rates between 60 and 70 percent of their maximum heart rate in order to optimize their fitness or weight-loss goals. According to the target heart rate calculator, if you’re 32 — a kind of basic-bitch equivalent for ages, right? — and work out at, say, 63 percent of your maximum heart rate, the target heart rate will be about equal to that mean masturbation heart rate (118 beats per minute).

Then the question becomes how long a person masturbates at that heart rate? That’s impossible to quantify because there’s no “normal” to speak of. But let’s say you’re pinched for time, and you’ve got a go-to fantasy or porn scene at the ready. Masturbating to climax in five or six minutes seems reasonable. The thing is, your heart rate won’t see 118 beats per minute across the entire duration of the act — remember it was a mean measurement, not a median — so I’ll cut the calculation down by half (or three minutes), across which your heart rate might more likely exhibit signs of an in-progress workout as you approach climax.

The average American male at age 32 weighs about 197 pounds, while the average American female weighs 170 pounds. So, if you’re an average, 32-year-old male, and your heart rate is 118 beats per minute over three minutes, this calorie calculator says you’ll burn roughly 31 calories. If you’re the average woman, it’s about 18.

Cross-referencing these figures with an activity calculator, that equates to a three-minute, leisurely bike ride at around 12 mph if you’re a man, or 9 mph if you’re a woman. 

However, while sussing out calories by heart rate is one way to do it, Matt DeRosa, another certified personal trainer, doesn’t think it’s the “cleanest indicator of what’s going on physiologically.” Individual heart rates vary and change with age, diet and fitness levels, so it’s nearly impossible to come up with a calorie burn-off count that will apply to everyone equally. 

Instead, Lawrence suggests that if such a caloric calculation must be achieved — and, dammit, it must! — a different method, using metabolic equivalents, or METs, might be a better way to go. “One MET is defined as the energy it takes to sit quietly,” according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “For the average adult, this is about one calorie per every 2.2 pounds of body weight per hour.” While sitting or sleeping, a person who weighs 160 pounds, for example, would burn approximately 70 calories an hour. If you’re burning off three times as much energy per minute, then that counts for 3 METs. “Vigorous-intensity activities burn more than 6 METs,” Harvard says. 

The Compendium of Physical Activities, an extensively researched guide to MET values, supported by Arizona State University and the National Cancer Society, says “general, moderate” sexual activity scores a 1.8 on the METs scale. “Passive, light effort, kissing, hugging,” is at the 1.3 mark. It seems only fair to classify masturbation as somewhere between the two, at least METs-wise.

According to METsCalculator.com, which uses the same terminology as the Compendium of Physical Activities’ scale, a 190-pound person —or roughly the average weight of the American male — will burn 5.6 calories across three minutes of this lighter sexual activity. A 170-pound person — like the average American woman — will burn 5.1 calories. At 1.8 METs, during general, moderate sex, the 190-pound person burns 7.76 calories in three minutes, while if you’re 170 pounds, you’re burning 6.94 calories.

Long story short: It doesn’t seem like you can realistically masturbate enough to balance out your increased caloric intake from snacking and the disruption to your exercise routines during the pandemic. Then again, you could try one of those seven-hour-long masturbation endurance “challenges” on Pornhub. Do enough of them, and who knows, you might end up looking like Michael Phelps.