Exercise is far more effective than dieting if you want to control your weight. And while lovemaking is exercise, you can't do it vigorously enough to make much difference when it comes to burning calories.
A passionate kiss can burn between 6 and 12 calories. That means kissing your loved one passionately twice a day for a year, keeping all other factors the same, will cause you to lose one pound. Hardly worth it, from a weight-loss point of view.
Foreplay doesn't count for much, either. The most you can burn during foreplay is about 100 calories an hour. You can burn 600 calories an hour chopping wood.
Researchers at the University of Rome used a calorimeter to show that when you really make love, it makes a difference how you do it. A passive partner burns only 100 calories per hour; however, a very energetic partner can burn up to 250 calories an hour.
Before you get too smug about how physical you are when you make love, understand that it's 250 calories an hour. Since most people make love for fewer than 15 minutes, they're burning only 60 calories, no matter how vigorous the encounter. That's equal to only a quarter of an ice cream cone.
While lovemaking has many rewards, weight loss isn't one!
Q: I'm 68 and know I need to exercise because my leg muscles are extremely weak. But I'm so out of shape that I can't even use my daughter's exercise bike. What do you suggest? Will walking help?
A: The only exercise most older people get is walking. It's generally good exercise, but you don't use your upper leg muscles when you walk on level ground. That's why so many people over 60 have extraordinarily weak upper leg muscles.
Strengthen your upper leg muscles by walking up steep hills, pedaling a bicycle, skiing, skating and working out on special strength-training machines. The best exercise for most older people is pedaling a bicycle, but many can't hold themselves steady on a stationary bike. Others find the seat uncomfortable.
The best solution for upper leg weakness in older people is to ride a recumbent bicycle, found in many health clubs. You ride while sitting in a contoured chair that doesn't exert any pressure against the pelvis, the way a regular bicycle seat does. Even an individual who has suffered a stroke can sit in the seat of a recumbent bicycle.
Using a recumbent bicycle involves sitting in the chair and pedaling against slight resistance at a comfortable rate -- until the legs feel heavy or hurt. Then stop. Do this every other day until you can pedal 10 to 20 minutes without stopping.
Virtually every healthy individual over 60 who does not exercise can benefit from using a recumbent exercise bicycle.
TTC Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.