Cardio sucks, but you know what doesn't? Masturbating. There's nothing like a mind-blowing orgasm that leaves you out of breath and full of pleasure (laced with the sweeping satisfaction that, yes, you did that all on your own). Honestly though, have you ever thought about everything that goes on in your body while you masturbate? Your muscles contract, pelvic floor sensations ensue, your lungs expand, and it all amounts to the big O and the big question: Does masturbation count as exercise?
Well, for one thing, it depends on what you mean by "count." But before I get to that, let's dive into what self-pleasure and exercise have in common. "Masturbation, like exercise, has been proven to be physiologically good for your body," Alexandra Fine, CEO of Dame Products, tells Elite Daily over email. For example, Fine explains, not only does masturbation help you get to know yourself and your body better, but the results of a study published in the Journal of Sex Research showed that masturbation can help young women develop a positive self-image in the long-term, which is pretty similar to the way exercise can encourage positive body image, too.
"If you’re having trouble sleeping, [masturbation] can help with that, too," says Fine. "In my research as a sex-tech founder, one of the most common responses we get from people is that masturbation is what they use to fall asleep at night [because] it can release key hormones while relieving tension." Hm, sounds eerily similar to how a challenging workout can improve your sleep. Coincidence? I think not.
But can masturbating "count" as, or even replace exercise altogether? I hate to break it to you, but according to Good Vibrations sex educator Carol Queen, Ph.D., you probably shouldn't swap your gym membership for your vibrator any time soon. "While there’s a certain overlap in effect, it’s not enough to substitute one for the other," Queen tells Elite Daily over email.
So even though it might feel like you're getting in a mini-workout when you're masturbating — increased blood flow, lungs working overtime, toes curling, and ultimately feeling spent after a powerful orgasm — you're most likely not building the same muscle tone that you would while running or lifting weights. However, Queen says, "depending on how [you] got to the orgasm (lots of body movement and thrusting versus lying calmly with a sex toy), there will be a range of energy expended." Hey, better than nothing, right?
Of course, just because one isn't necessarily a replacement for the other, Queen says masturbation and exercise do complement one another pretty well, in that "people who get enough exercise, especially core exercises that involve the pelvic floor, may well notice improved sensation sexually," she tells Elite Daily.
Plus, according to Fine, masturbation, much like exercise, can be an excellent way to unwind at the end of a long day. "While everyone masturbates a little bit differently, the mindset during masturbation is almost always the same — present," Fine tells Elite Daily. "This is in sharp contrast to most other moments of our day, making masturbation a key way to decompress."
So basically, if you find yourself feeling really tense and stressed out after a long day at work or school, but you don't have the energy to make it to your usual yoga class to unwind, a little bit of self-pleasure might go a long way in calming you down. Masturbating may not exactly build the same muscles as yoga, or leave you feeling as sore after the fact, but you'll probably walk away from both experiences with similar levels of satisfaction. "It’s important to note that masturbation can be an incredibly powerful part of an overall wellness regimen — both due to its potential for mental and physiological effects," Fine explains.
Bottom line: Just like exercising is notably beneficial for your overall health, so is masturbating. You probably shouldn't replace one with the other, but I think it's safe to say that when in doubt, go ahead and rub one out.