Bad news, um, mystery sex acrobats: Researchers have announced that, despite popular and enduring myths to the contrary, having sex does not burn a significant number of calories. In fact, it burns, like, eight. (Actually 21, on average. But basically eight.)
So you can bang away all you like, but you're not turning into a supermodel. Instead, you're just some lady I made up (you can't actually exist, can you?) who believes in weird internet myths about belly fat and needs "reasons" to have sex. Also language professors hate you.
It's not particularly surprising to discover that sex isn't, in fact, the magic holy grail known as a-thing-that's-good-for-you-that-also-is-awesome (seriously, science—how many years away are we from celery that tastes like cheese-greasy Bugles?). What's surprising is that we STILL HAVE THIS DUMB MYTH.
A new report in the New England Journal of Medicine this week (which appears to have been bankrolled by a shadowy cabal of Bugles executives, those dancing people from the Sensa ads, and kids who were always picked last for kickball) debunks several popular "obesity myths"—including "gym class is good," "snacks make you fat," "setting reachable goals is for losers," and "diet pills are awesome." The report also tackled the age-old question of whether or not frantic, chafing humpery is an adequate substitute for an hour on the elliptical while watching Kathie Lee and Hoda. It is NOT, says [stale, 20-year-old] science. It is not.
"The big issues in weight loss are how you change the food environment in order for people to make healthy choices," such as limits on soda sizes and marketing junk food to children, she said. Some of the myths they cite are "straw men" issues, she said.
But some are pretty interesting.
Sex, for instance. Not that people do it to try to lose weight, but claims that it burns 100 to 300 calories are common, Allison said. Yet the only study that scientifically measured the energy output found that sex lasted six minutes on average - "disappointing, isn't it?" - and burned a mere 21 calories, about as much as walking, he said.
That's for a man. The study was done in 1984 and didn't measure the women's experience.
"Not that people do it to try to lose weight." Right. They don't. So on the one hand, DUH. I have never heard of anyone having sex specifically to lose weight, except for this one lady on Jenny Jones (or Maury) (Or Montel??) in like 1995 who said she was having sex three times a day and her skinny husband was wasting away but she stayed fat. She was disappointed. I remember she was wearing a lavender nylon track suit. It was a good episode. So basically Jenny Jones already debunked all this shit when I was in middle school. Enough.
That said, on the other hand, if nobody believes in or adheres to this sex-as-exercise thing, then how come we never goddamn shut up about it? Here's another science fact: Every single person you have ever met (INCLUDING BABIES) has, at one point or other, made a joke about how sex burns calories. Instead of pumping iron you could be pumping something else, eh? Ehhhhh???
But while I don't think this is a big deal, obviously, I have to wonder what is up with our fixation? Do we have to assign a potential weight-loss value to every single activity in our society? Oh, how many calories does hugging your dying grandmother burn? Can I switch to a smaller belt loop every time I refrain from calling in a fake bomb threat to a school or business park? Does donating to the Red Cross melt cellulite? Why aren't we "debunking" those "myths"?
It is ridiculous that this information exists.
The fact that we collectively cling to this mediocre, hacky, ancient joke—and the fact that we validate it with deliberate scientific research—suggests that we genuinely want to believe it. Just a little bit. And understandably so—shortcuts are always nice, especially when they involve doin' it with someone you luuuuv—but I'm not sure it's doing us any favors. Can we just have sex because we want to have sex? And exercise because we want to exercise? And not think about weight loss every single second of every day when we're trying to do non-calorie-related tasks such as playing the piano and going for a stroll in the magnificent springtime and pleasurably grinding upon one's handsome gentleman caller?
Couldn't we just do that? Maybe? ...What if I told you that doing that burns calories?
Photo credit: Kurhan / Stockfresh.