Kissing can be a lot of things—quick, slow, passionate, awkward—but did you know kissing also burns calories? No, a makeout session won't torch anywhere near the number of calories you'd shed during a HIIT workout, but kissing does do the body good, in more ways than one.
Kissing can burn anywhere from 2 to 26 calories per minute.
A casual kiss involving little more than lip action will burn only 2 to 3 calories per minute, according to a 2013 report1 on philematology (aka the scientific study of kissing—yes, there's a word for it!) penned by American cardiologist Joseph S. Alpert, M.D., in the American Journal of Medicine. For the record, that's not much more than what you'd burn sitting stationary on the couch (sitting burns about 1.3 calories per minute2). That said, Alpert estimates more intense kissing might burn up to 26 calories per minute.
Different types of kissing.
How many calories your kiss will burn depends on a variety of factors: how long the kissing lasts, if you're sitting or standing during the kiss, using your hands, the type of kiss, how old you are, how much you weigh, and more. There's no one universal way of kissing, so it's almost impossible to determine a definitive number of calories burned per peck, casual kiss, or passionate makeout session—but that hasn't stopped experts from taking an educated guess. Here are a few estimates of how many calories you burn from different types of kissing.
Casual kissing: about 2 to 3 calories per minute.
"Simple kisses use as few as two muscles and burn only 2 to 3 calories," writes Alpert. This is because if you're keeping your kiss PG—think a quick peck before heading out the door or a casual smooch—your muscles aren't getting much of a workout.
Passionate kissing: about 5 calories per minute.
According to Alpert, one minute of passionate kissing can burn between 5 and 26 calories, the latter being the equivalent of one Hershey's chocolate kiss, per minute. That's a lot, of course, so it's probably safer to assume the average falls closer to 5 calories per minute. Either way, it's a significant jump from the number of calories burned from a sweet peck, but that's because passionate kissing is, well, passionate.
"What else you do alongside kissing makes a big difference," holistic nutritionist Rachel Fiske, N.C., CPT-NASM, tells mbg. "If you're getting hot and heavy, using your hands and moving your body a lot, the caloric burn is dramatically increased. Just like with other forms of exercise, standing and involving multiple muscle groups boosts calorie burn."
Full-body makeout session: about 6 calories per minute.
If your makeouts look like they do in the movies—dramatically picking each other up, pressing each other against walls, and the like, while smooching—you might find yourself getting a decent workout in the process! To compare with some perhaps comparable activities: Both ballroom dancing and wrestling burn about 6 calories a minute.
Having sex: about 3 calories per minute.
Not everyone likes kissing during sex, but sex itself might give you its own mini workout. During a 2013 study published in the journal PLOS ONE3, heterosexual couples were asked to wear an activity tracker during four sexual experiences throughout the month. From this data, researchers at the University of Montreal found that, on average, women burn roughly 69 calories having sex for 25 minutes. Men burn 101 calories in a 25-minute sex session.
That said, according to a review4 published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the exact number of calories burned during sex fluctuates depending on the intensity level of the activity, the individual's body weight, and how long the sex lasts.
Oral sex: about 2 calories per minute.
How kissing burns calories.
While kissing isn't exactly what you might consider "exercise," the body does burn calories from kissing the same way it burns calories during a workout: through muscle movement. Alpert says "passionate" kissing can involve up to 34 facial muscles, mostly found in the orbicularis oris, a complex of muscles in the lips around the mouth.
But your mouth isn't necessarily the only muscle group getting a workout when you're smooching, he notes. A whopping 112 postural muscles—the core stability muscles found in your pelvis, abdomen, and back—can also come into play depending on your position throughout the kiss (are you sitting, standing, lying down?), how physically intense the kiss is, and how much you're moving during it. In other words, the hotter the kiss, the more calories you'll burn.
Personal trainer and nutritionist Jamie Hickey tells mbg your body burns calories through a metabolic process in which food and drink are converted into energy sources by combining calories with oxygen. From there, the energy is released into your body for it to be utilized: to allow your heart to beat, your lungs to compress and decompress, and to perform every other function it needs to survive, Hickey explains. But in terms of kissing, your body burns calories through oxygen deprivation.
"Oxygen consumption is very important to burning calories, [and] if you're breathing heavy, your heart needs to beat faster to make sure it's spreading fresh oxygenated blood to your muscles, and brain," says Hickey. "This causes your body to burn calories in order to match the energy levels your body is requiring."
The bottom line.
Kissing in all its wonderfully different forms can burn various amounts of calories. However, as enjoyable as kissing can be, the activity doesn't offer the same health benefits as, say, running on a treadmill or sweating through a Bikram yoga class. Still, while you may not lean out or tone up from kissing, there's no denying the many other health benefits of kissing.
Julia Guerra is a health and wellness writer reporting for mindbodygreen, Elite Daily, and INSIDER. Formerly the beauty editor for BestProducts.com, she's contributed to Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, PopSugar, and more. A book worm and fitness enthusiast, her happiest moments are spent with her husband, family, sipping tea, and cuddling with her Tabby cat, Aria.