Abstract Objective To determine energy expenditure in kilocalories kcal during sexual activity in young healthy couples in their natural environment and compare it to a session of endurance exercise. Methods The study population consisted of twenty one heterosexual couples age: Free living energy expenditure during sexual activity and the endurance exercise was measured using the portable mini SenseWear armband.
Perceived energy expenditure, perception of effort, fatigue and pleasure were also assessed after sexual activity. All participants completed a 30 min endurance exercise session on a treadmill at a moderate intensity. Results Mean energy expenditure during sexual activity was kCal or 4.
In addition, mean intensity was 6. Moreover, the energy expenditure and intensity during the 30 min exercise session in men was kCal or 9. Interestingly, the highest range value achieved by men for absolute energy expenditure can potentially be higher than that of the mean energy expenditure of the 30 min exercise session i.
Finally, perceived energy expenditure during sexual activity was similar in men kCal and in women Conclusion The present study indicates that energy expenditure during sexual activity appears to be approximately 85 kCal or 3.
These results suggest that sexual activity may potentially be considered, at times, as a significant exercise. July 16, ; Accepted: September 29, ; Published: October 24, Copyright: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist Introduction Health professionals are starting to recognize that sexual activity in humans could be an important aspect on their overall health and quality of life since this activity is practiced regularly by most individuals throughout their lifetime [ 1 - 6 ].
However, due to the intimate and sensitive nature of sexuality, few studies have investigated if sexual activity could be considered as an exercise which involves a significant amount of energy expenditure [ 7 - 14 ]. For example, in , Masters and Johnson [ 12 ] were one of the first authors to examine the physiological responses of sexual activity albeit in a laboratory setting.
The authors reported 11 years of observational studies that involved female volunteers, 18 to 78 years of age, and male volunteers, 21 to 89 years of age.
In , Hellerstein and Friedman [ 9 ] investigated sexual activity in middle-aged men mean age The mean heart rate at the time of orgasm was Of particular interest was their finding on peak coital heart rate, which was usually lower than the heart rates achieved with normal daily activities mean of In , Bohlen et al.
Results from men aged 25 to 43 years old showed that sexual activity with their partners had minimal effect on heart rate, oxygen consumption and blood pressure during foreplay and stimulation sexual activity before the onset of orgasm.
Not surprisingly, orgasm was associated with maximal increases in all three of these parameters. The highest intensity was associated with coitus, especially the man-on-top position, where 3 to 4 METS were exerted. In , Palmeri et al. Collectively, based on these above studies, the physiological responses of sexual activity seem to be at a moderate intensity. It should be noted that all of the above studies that were conducted were limited to simple techniques such as heart rate and blood pressure for the determination of intensity during sexual activity.
It is also important to indicate that sexual activity is a non-steady-state activity. In addition, these studies had important environmental and methodological limitations. Moreover, the equipment that was used to measure exertion in these studies could have affected the ability to perform a sexual activity i. Taken together, performing these studies in the laboratory setting and the potential interferences due to the equipment used, minimize the chances to re-enact the normal intimacy observed in real-life conditions.
Furthermore, most of the framework of knowledge of the physiological responses during sexual activity was gathered in studies that were conducted more than a quarter of a century ago. Also, the previous studies used couples that had a wide range of age and did not report the differences between ages from both individuals in the couple, which could be a confounding factor younger vs.
Finally, no study, to our knowledge, has investigated the amount of energy expenditure in kilocalories kcal during sexual activity and has compared this energy expenditure, using the same subjects, to a regular exercise which could provide valuable clinical information to health professionals.
There is even a myth which suggests that energy expenditure during sexual activity is between to kcal per session for each individual involved [ 15 ]. However, no scientific data has documented this claim. Collectively, new timely studies on energy expenditure and sexual activity in a natural environment without any methodological interference are needed in order have more conclusive findings.
Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to determine energy expenditure in kilocalories as a primary outcome and intensity METS as a secondary outcome using a simple, non-obstructive and accurate method for the measurement of energy expenditure SenseWear armband during sexual activity in young healthy couples and compare it to a session of endurance exercise. This objective will provide us with new insights on the potential role of sexual activity as a physical exercise.
In addition, as a tertiary outcome, we investigated the perception of energy expenditure, fatigue, effort, pleasure and appreciation of the couples after sexual activity using a questionnaire. Our primary goal was not to examine the physiological responses i. Methods Participants Twenty one heterosexual couples from the Montreal region were recruited between September to April for this study.
To be included in the study, participants had to meet the following criteria: In addition, all participants reported no cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or any orthopaedic limitations. Body weight was measured using an electronic scale Balance Industrielles, Montreal, Canada and standing height was measured using a wall stadiometer Perspective Enterprises, Michigan, USA.
Participants were fully informed about the nature, goal, procedures and risks of the study, and gave their informed consent in writing. The modalities of the endurance exercise session were based on the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association which recommends 30 min of exercise at a moderate intensity 5 times a week to the general population [ 16 ].
Our goal was to choose a form of exercise that could be regularly practised by the general population and to be used as a control. During a one month period, couples were instructed to perform one sexual activity per week in their homes. Thus, all couples had performed a total of 4 sexual activities. The couples were instructed to perform their usual sexual activities and not to use any drugs, alcohol or medication for erectile dysfunction i. Viagra before the sexual activity as well as not to perform any paraphilic sexual activities.
Questionnaire All participants completed a questionnaire after each sexual activity. The following seven questions were asked: The participants had a choice of three categories i. As for the seventh question, participants were asked to write down a number. The couples were instructed not to share or discuss their information with each other. In the present study, we presume that the perception of sexual activity is unique for each participant.
Thus, the aim of these questions was to explore in detail how participants are making sense of their personal experiences. Measure of Energy Expenditure Free living energy expenditure during sexual activity and the endurance exercise session was measured using the portable mini SenseWear armband Bodymedia, Pittsburgh, PA. The portable armband uses a 3-axis accelerometer, a heat flux sensor, a galvanic skin response sensor, a skin temperature sensor, and a near-body ambient temperature sensor to capture data.
These data as well as body weight, height, handedness and smoking status smoker or non-smoker are used to calculate energy expenditure. The armband was placed on the upper left arm on the triceps at the mid-humerus point of each volunteer. The net output is a measure of energy expenditure kcal and intensity METS utilized by the participant across time. Data analysis for energy expenditure and intensity were available minute by minute SenseWear professional software 7. It should be noted that mean energy expenditure and intensity were measured during the four different sessions of sexual activity.
Couples were instructed to wear the armbands right before the start of the sexual activity and take it off at the end of their sexual encounter. Normality was verified using the Kurtosis-test.
To address our primary and secondary outcomes, paired t-tests were used to identify differences in energy expenditure and intensity between sexual activity and the 30 minute exercise session in both men and women. Moreover, a repeated measures ANOVA using the post-hoc assessment of LSD was used to detect differences in energy expenditure between all four sessions of sexual activity in both men and women.
Furthermore, unpaired t-tests were used to detect differences in age, body mass index, energy expenditure and intensity between men and women. To address our tertiary outcome, 1 paired t-tests were used to identify differences in measured energy expenditure and perceived energy expenditure in both men and women and 2 a Chi-square test was performed to analyze differences in perception of effort, fatigue, appreciation and pleasure in men and women.
Results Mean duration of the relationship of the couples was BMI, absolute and relative energy expenditure during sexual activity, as well as absolute and relative energy expenditure during treadmill exercise were significantly higher in men compared to women Table 1. When statistically controlling for BMI, significant differences in absolute and relative energy expenditure during sexual activity between men and women persisted. No differences in age, perceived energy expenditure, intensity during sexual activity and intensity during the treadmill exercise were observed between men and women Table 1.
In addition, no differences in percentage absolute and relative of the energy expenditure and intensity during sexual activity compared to that of the treadmill exercise were observed between men and women Table 1.