Situps are an abdominal-strengthening exercise you can do without any equipment. In addition to strengthening your abs, situps also burn calories.

The number of calories you can burn will vary based on intensity level and body weight. According to MyFitnessPal, situps, on average, can burn three calories per minute when done at a moderate pace and up to nine calories per minute at a vigorous pace.

Several factors determine the number of calories you can burn when doing situps.

April Whitney, NASM-certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, says these factors include intensity, duration, and metabolism.

Your metabolism is also dependent on several factors, including:

  • Height and weight. When it comes to metabolism, the larger the person, the more calories they’ll burn. This is true even at rest.
  • Sex. In general, males burn more calories than females performing the same exercise at the same intensity because they usually have less body fat and more muscle.
  • Age. The aging process changes a lot of things about your health, including the number of calories you burn. This slowdown is caused by an increase in body fat and a decrease in muscle mass.

Intensity is the one thing that seems to matter most when trying to increase the number of calories you burn. You can increase intensity by doing more repetitions in a certain amount of time or adding additional weight.

To determine the number of calories you can burn during physical activity, exercise physiologists, trainers, and physical therapists often use metabolic equivalents (METs) for accuracy.

One MET is the energy it takes to sit quietly. While at rest, you can expect to burn approximately one calorie for every 2.2 pounds of weight per hour.

Moderate activity usually comes in around 3 to 6 METs, while vigorous activities are those that burn more than 6 METs. Situps can range from 4 to 6 METs, depending on intensity. You can find countless MET tables, like this one, online.

To determine how many calories you’ll burn per minute:

  1. Multiply the MTEs of an exercise by 3.5.
  2. Take that number and multiply it by your weight in kilograms.
  3. Divide that number by 200.

Your result will be the number of calories you burn per minute. You can also plug this information into an online fitness calculator, like this one from MyFitnessPal.

Your core muscles are involved in most, if not all, of the movements you perform daily, including activities that require rotation, flexion, and extension. Strengthening this area can help reduce back pain, improve your posture and balance, and enhance athletic performance.

“In a healthy individual using proper form, situps work not only the entire abdominal wall, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and internal and external obliques but also the hip flexors in the hips and quads,” explained Whitney.

For people with strong abdominal walls, situps can continue to strengthen the core, and the large range of motion can improve flexibility and mobility.

Whitney mentions the benefits of using proper form when doing situps.

Follow these steps to make sure you’re doing them right:

the perfect situp
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted firmly on the floor.
  • Rotate your hips by pressing your lower back firmly into the floor. If someone were to try to stick their hand between your lower back and the floor, they shouldn’t be able to get through.
  • Engage your core by bringing the belly button into the spine. You can put your hands across your chest or behind your ears. Just be sure you aren’t pulling on your neck.
  • Inhale to prepare, exhale, and curl your chin toward your chest and roll up and off the ground.
  • At the top, press your shoulder blades down and away from the ears. Roll back down to the ground with control, feeling your lower back touch, then middle back, followed by your head.

If possible, try doing situps in front of a mirror until you have the proper form down.

They might seem simple, but Whitney points out that situps aren’t an entry-level exercise. They’re better suited for active people who’ve been strengthening their abdominal wall for some time.

If you’re just starting to build your core, there are plenty of alternatives you can try, such as:

Having a strong core is an essential component of fitness. While performing situps consistently can strengthen the abdominal muscles, they aren’t safe for everyone.

If you have any issues with your neck or lower back, check with your healthcare provider or physical therapist about best practices. If you feel pain or discomfort while performing situps, stop and try some easier alternatives.

Exercise is good for your body and soul. But too much can have adverse consequences that may lead to overuse injuries, stress, anxiety, or depression.

Some of the warning signs of compulsive exercise include:

  • putting exercise before everything else
  • feeling stressed if you mix a workout
  • using exercise as a way to purge food
  • getting frequent overuse injuries

If you have concerns about your relationship with exercise, talk with your doctor or a mental health professional. You can also reach out to the National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2237.