Can Masturbating Help You Lose Weight? Here’s What Research Says

Partnered sex is considered a workout, but what about a solo session? We asked an expert and took a look at the science.

Talking about masturbation may be a little taboo…but truthfully, some research has shown there can be masturbation health benefits to gain from a little pleasure on one’s own. In fact, masturbating can produce some of the same benefits as engaging in foreplay and sexual intercourse do. Just for example, says licensed therapist Erin Rayburn, LMFT, LPC-MHSP, NCC: “The release of endorphins in the brain through sexual play [or] masturbation helps reduce stress, which is beneficial for reduction of inflammation within the body and helps reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.”

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So self-stimulation can be good for the brain…but what about the body? As in—we know sex burns calories, but does masturbating likewise have the potential to help you get more fit? Rayburn confirms: “It isn’t a secret that sex can help you burn calories. Masturbation can also help you burn calories, depending on the level of intensity and duration of the experience.”

OK, so the intensity of masturbation is a pretty personal point that we’ll leave there. But, in general, here’s what research suggests about masturbation, metabolism, and weight loss.

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First, a look at how many calories sex can burn

When it comes to sex, one 2013 study at the University of Quebec in Montreal found that men burned an average of 101 calories during a 24-minute sex session (around 4.2 calories per minute), while women tended to burn 69 calories (3.1 calories per minute) on average.

Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated just below these numbers, with men burning around 3.5 calories per minute, or 210 calories an hour—although the average sex session only lasts around six minutes.

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However, for masturbation, the number of calories consumed tends to be significantly less.  A 2019 report from Healthline suggested that on average, a solo masturbating session will only burn off five or six calories.

That’s because in general, masturbation isn’t as physically rigorous as sex with a partner and doesn’t require you to expend as much energy. It turns out, the orgasm itself is what might. As 2001 research in the European Heart Journal noted, climaxing is what gives off the most energy during sex.

So while self-pleasuring may not burn off as many calories as partnered sex, when it’s done occasionally, masturbation might yield some worthwhile health benefits—like reducing stress and blood pressure, promoting relaxation—and, as 2019 Australian research might suggest, maybe even helping you sleep.

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Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a journalist and content strategist with a main focus on nutrition, health, and wellness coverage. She holds an MA in Journalism from DePaul University and a Nutrition Science certificate from Stanford Medicine. Her work has been featured in publications including Taste of Home, Reader's Digest, Bustle, Buzzfeed, INSIDER, MSN, Eat This, Not That!, and more.