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Can Masturbation Burn Calories?

Written by
Dr. R. Y. Langham

February 13, 2024

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Dianne Steven

Believe it or not, masturbation (in the right circumstances) can be a stress -reliever. It can also lead to the best sleep you will ever have and boost your mood making you calmer and happier overall. It’s true. But have you heard the rumor going around that it can also burn calories? Anecdotal reports suggest that engaging in masturbation just one time can burn, at minimum, 5-6 calories, but the amount of calories can change based on how long and vigorously you masturbate – and if you orgasm.

But don’t stop doing cardio yet. Even if you increase the frequency, length, and speed of your masturbatory activities, you may not burn enough calories to replace a good cardio session at your local gym. Masturbation offers a plethora of benefits, but it is not a magic pill and it probably will not dramatically cause a change in your body shape, but anything is possible, right? If you are wondering if masturbating can and will help you burn calories and shed those extra pounds, keep reading because this article will jump right in and explore the truth or lack of truth when it comes to masturbation and burning calories.

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What is Masturbation?

Masturbation is a natural, safe, healthy (in moderation), and fun way to explore your body and learn what and what does not “light your fire” in the bedroom. It may involve tongues, fingers, or sex toys and usually consists of touching, caressing, licking, squeezing, pinching, and even tickling your genitalia and other sensitive body parts (i.e., nipples). 

Masturbation is usually performed alone but it can also be performed in tandem with a partner (in the presence of your partner). Not many physical side effects are linked to masturbation, but it can affect some people mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually, depending on your beliefs. For instance, religious people, especially Christians, may believe that masturbation is taboo because of certain references in the Bible. 

These individuals may experience shame and guilt because of their masturbation habits, especially if porn use or porn addiction is involved. Most religious communities shun porn use and masturbation, so these individuals tend to experience the most angst. People who excessively or chronically masturbate may avoid peers out of embarrassment. 

Or, they may develop performance anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or sexual dysfunction out of fear of rejection, judgment, or criticism. But the truth is masturbation is not unhealthy or evil. It is simply a form of self-exploration. It is only when it negatively affects your quality of life that it becomes a problem.

Where Does the Belief That Masturbation Burns Calories Come From?

It is true masturbating can be quite the workout sometimes. It can get your blood pumping and your heart racing, after all. Theoretically, the longer and more vigorously you masturbate, the more calories you are likely to burn. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Body processes are the most “active” when you climax, so it is possible to burn calories each time you orgasm. 

But it is equally important to remember that masturbating will not yield the same calorie loss as a good workout – i.e., running on a treadmill, jogging around the neighborhood, or engaging in cardio, weight lifting, etc. It won’t even yield the same results as having sexual intercourse with your partner. Yes, sex can burn calories. Foreplay can also burn calories, depending on what you do. For instance, researchers have found that a person who weighs 175 lbs can burn up to 200 calories during 40 minutes of sexual intercourse.

So Does Masturbation Burn Calories?

It depends on who you ask.

Some say it can burn calories, while others say it cannot. Detractors say masturbation isn’t intensive enough to burn a noticeable amount of calories. Burning calories requires cardio movements (movements that get the heart racing and blood pumping) for at least 30 minutes or longer. Although vigorous or intense masturbation can increase your heart rate and burn a few calories, these calories tend to be small and insignificant. Therefore, masturbation is no viable substitute for good old-fashioned exercise when it comes to burning calories. 

On the flip side, supporters of using masturbation for calorie-burning believe it is possible to get rid of pesky calories through this solo self-pleasuring activity. According to these individuals, being an “active masturbator” can help you burn those extra calories you piled on during the holidays or when you were feeling bum and “stress ate” the night away. The key to success? Making these “solo sessions” super intense. In other words, ramping up the “heat” during masturbation can make you burn a noticeable amount of calories. The goal is to get your blood pumping and your heart racing.

Supporters admit that the intensity, frequency, length of time, position, and if an orgasm was achieved (along with how many orgasms were achieved within a certain time) all factor into how many calories you can or will burn during masturbation. For instance, a “slow-building” orgasm will not help you burn calories. Neither will a quick “solo session.” 

Body weight, age, gender, and health status also factor into how many calories you can or will burn during masturbation. These individuals believe that masturbating for 30 minutes can burn 200-300 calories. They also assert that frequent or chronic masturbation builds muscle and improves endurance and the health of your heart which helps prevent muscle strains and heart attacks. According to supporters, masturbation, on average, can burn 15-20 calories per “session” for males and 26-70 per “session” for females, depending on how much energy they exert during it and their body weight. 

According to a 2023 study, males can burn up to 100 calories during a 15-minute masturbation session, depending on your weight, level of fitness, and the intensity of your masturbation session. Frequent or chronic masturbation can help boost the number of calories burned during each masturbation session, primarily because your body becomes “used” to this specific action (masturbation) which helps it become more “prepared” for it – i.e., ramping up your metabolism, allowing you to burn calories more easily each time you do it. 

Supporters assert that almost anything from crying, screaming, talking, taking a shower, rolling around in bed, or simply stretching can burn calories so why not masturbation? 

Should I Give Up If Masturbating Does Not Help Me Burn Calories?

No, you should not give up. 

Engaging in self-pleasure releases “happy hormones” (endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin) into your body, which improves your mood and helps you sleep more soundly and feel calm. 

Other masturbation benefits include:

  • Improved pelvic muscle tone
  • Stronger anal muscle tone
  • Reduced or alleviated cramps 
  • Reduced stress and muscle tension
  • Feelings of empowerment
  • Better sex
  • Improved self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Reduced lower back pain during pregnancy
  • Stronger immune system
  • Better sleep
  • Lower risk of prostate cancer
  • Natural stress-reliever
  • Improved mood
  • Feelings of pleasure and relaxation
  • Release of sexual tension
  • Better understanding of your sexual needs and wants
  • Bodily exploration 
  • No risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

What Do People Who Masturbate Think It Burns Calories?

  • “You burn calories when you breathe, when you blink, and even when you think. So yes, you will burn some calories no matter what you do. As for specifically how much, that depends greatly on how vigorously you’re jerking off, how hot the room is, what position you’re jerking in (standing will burn more than sitting), etc. And just looking around I have seen numbers between 50-300 calories per 5 minutes. So it would be pretty hard to predict any specific amount.”

  • No, it is not true. Sex itself can burn calories, but that’s because of the moving around (physical activity), not due to orgasm. If you have vigorous sex several times per day, it will burn calories, but it’s unlikely to be enough to lose a significant amount of weight. As with all of these questions, the ONLY way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume.

    Diets, pills, and supplements that claim to be able to boost your metabolism enough to cause you to lose more weight are lying. Your weight is 85% what you eat, and about 15% your exercise. It’s quite possible to be thin and sedentary, and it’s possible to have a lot of excess fat and still be very strong.”

  • “Any physical activity, whether it’s running a marathon or wiggling your fingers, requires energy and therefore burns calories. So if you wiggle a finger all day, you’ll burn more calories than if you didn’t, but it’s a trivial amount compared to all the other activities of a typical day. An orgasm by itself only needs enough calories to seize up your muscles briefly and eject a few ounces of fluid. Not an impressive energy consumer.

    If you spent half an hour pounding a partner to get to the point of orgasm, that’s probably a decent amount of calories burned because you’re spending a lot of time moving your entire body. But there are much better and more intensive fitness programs than sex. Maybe not as exciting, though.”

  • “Masturbation isn’t a full-body activity. You mostly use your wrists (forearm muscles) for both sexes. I would be shocked if you burned an extra 50 calories per hour masturbating, which is more or less what you burn on a calm walk, which requires sweeping leg motions.”

What Do The Experts Say?

Not much. 

Studies on the effects of masturbation on calorie burning are, for the most part, non-existent. There are studies on sex and calorie burning and sex and weight loss, but even those are limited. However, researchers have found that having intense and frequent sex can help you burn calories and shed extra pounds. These losses and gains stem from the movement required during sexual intercourse – movement that gets your heart beating faster and your blood rushing through your veins more quickly. 

It is the movement, especially vigorous movement that can lead to calorie burning and weight loss. Researchers have found that young men burn approximately 4 calories, per minute, each time they have sex, and young women burn approximately 3 calories, per minute, each time they have sex.

Can Porn Addiction Be Used to Treat Compulsive Masturbation?

The truth is there are not many downsides to masturbating – unless it starts negatively affecting your life in some way, such as your mental health – i.e., causing depression, anxiety, high levels of stress, shame, or guilt, or your self-esteem or relationship. Then, it can become a problem, but you and only you can decide if your masturbation habits are causing problems for you. 

Masturbation addiction is also a very real possibility for people who excessively or chronically masturbate and are unable to control their urges. This type of addiction is usually accompanied by porn use or porn addiction. Porn addiction is an involuntary obsession or fixation on viewing porn often while masturbating. 

Like other behavioral addictions, porn addiction is uncontrollable and typically requires porn addiction treatment – i.e., cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), SSRI antidepressants (when anxiety or depression are present), porn blockers or anti-porn software, lifestyle changes such as moving your electronic devices into open space such as your living room or kitchen, getting more sleep, or adopting a healthier diet and more effective coping strategies. 

Porn addiction treatment programs, like Stop Together, and self-help tools like mindfulness meditation, porn addiction books, podcasts, and hotlines, hypnosis, support groups, NoFap Reddit forums, semen retention, and NoFapping can address both porn addiction and compulsive masturbation habits. If you want to stop masturbating or stop your fixation on porn-induced masturbation, then there is help available to help you reclaim your life.

References

  • Frappier, J., Toupin, I., Levy, J. J., Aubertin-Leheudre, M., & Karelis, A. D. (2013). Energy Expenditure during Sexual Activity in Young Healthy Couples. PLOS ONE, 8(10), e79342. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0079342
  • Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Wasata, R., & Coleman, E. (2023). Masturbation prevalence, frequency, reasons, and associations with partnered sex amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Findings from a U.S. nationally representative survey. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 52(3), 1317–1331. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-022-02505-2
  • Bates, J. N., Pastuszak, A. W., & Khera, M. (2019). Effect of body weight on sexual function in men and women. Current Sexual Health Reports, 11(1), 52. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6771291/

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