It’s old news that there are many health benefits to having a safe and active sex life. Study after study has shown that a raucous romp in bed can relieve stress, which can lead to a happier and healthier life.

Recent studies have shown that having sex regularly can improve your relationship, regulate hormones, help cure insomnia and relieve a host of other health problems. Researchers also found that people with a more active sex life (one or two times a week) had higher levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that can prevent certain colds and infections.

But some sex researchers have looked at sex in a completely different light: as part of an exercise routine.

Sex can certainly be strenuous. Hormones raging, heart racing, blood flowing, temperature escalating — that passion you and your partner share in bed can be turned into a great work out. Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania say that 30 minutes of sex can burn upwards of 85 calories on average.

Eighty-five calories may not sound like a whole lot to love, but over time it can add up. An hour-long session of lovemaking would burn around 170 calories. If you had sex for one hour 21 times in a month that would easily burn more than a pound. As if you needed more motivation to go those extra few rounds.

Of course, the number of calories burned depends on the position and the vigor with which you do that mattress mambo. Other factors include body type, activity level and, ahem, how long you last. “Some people won’t burn as many calories as others,” Grant Pierce, owner of New Life Fitness in Lansing said.

However, according to Erica Phillipich, a health educator at the Center For Sexual Health Promotion at Olin Health Center, the average American sex-session lasts about 12 minutes. “I don’t see what that could do for your health,” Phillipich said.

Though sex may not burn many calories, it can do great things for your muscles. Many sex positions target the muscles in the core, hips, thighs and butt and can help train and tone those areas. “It’s a good mix of strength and cardio training depending on the position, you could target the arms, core and gluteus maximus,” Greham Turner, a personal trainer at Powerhouse Gym said.

“Sex can be a great workout,” Turner. “It’s a good exercise of mind and body.” The stress-fighting hormones released during sex allows you to get that workout without feeling stressed.

“For some people sex is very vanilla,” Pierce said. “The more strenuous positions will provide a better workout.” Pierce said that positions that are difficult to maintain will cause you to work harder and, thus, get a better workout.

The more exotic positions, such as the lotus and the London Bridge can help keep things interesting while adding to your workout routine. The lotus can be achieved by having the male kneel and sit on his heels with his partner sitting on him, facing him. The London Bridge involves the bottom performing a back-bridge and the top between their legs. It’s important to remember that those difficult, borderline acrobatic positions also require rest to avoid mood-killing cramps and fatigue. “Any time you’re raising your heart rate the proper way… the more energetic you are the more rest you will need,” Pierce said.

Though there has been much debate about having a roll in the hay the night before a big athletic competition, there is none about sex’s overall effect on athletes. Studies have shown that while having sex the night before the big game will have no overall affect on performance, abstaining from sex all together can drop testosterone levels, according to scientists at the University of L’Aquila in Italy.

Studies show that a healthy sex life can boost testosterone levels and reduce muscle pain and fatigue. Maybe that’s why thousands of condoms are handed out to athletes during the Olympic Games.

Researchers at the American Council on Exercise say that it can go both ways as well. Vigorous exercise, they say, can also improve your sex life by increasing testosterone in men and sexual response in women. “Heavy exercise,” however, “can actually lead to lower testosterone levels, leading to a less-robust sexual appetite,” said a 1999 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. So while vigorous exercise that raises your heart rate can raise your testosterone, exercising to the point of exhaustion will lower testosterone levels and potentially sabotage your sex drive. So in this case, less is more.

Flexibility-building exercises such as yoga may also add to the fun in bed by making more difficult positions easier to attain and less strenuous to maintain. Also, light cardio training may help you last longer without getting tired.

Even during the more athletic sessions, sex is considered relatively safe so long as you don’t push your body into positions that you’re having too much trouble with. “For some people’s sexual escapades, however, they could open themselves up to injury,” Pierce said.

Phillipich, however, disagrees with viewing sex as a workout. “[Sex] is not done to simply get in your daily exercise,”Phillipich said. “I would not recommend having sex as a form of exercise.”

Sex can be a fun addition to your workout plan, even if it’s only a few times a week. Though it doesn’t burn a whole lot of calories, it can make a good supplemental workout and adds several other health benefits as well. Maybe leave the chocolate sauce in the fridge next time, though, instead of pouring it on your partner.

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