The Pleasures of Sex

How the science of sex can lead to more pleasurable sex

The Little Explored Secret of Women's Orgasms While They Exe

First study to explore women's exercise-induced orgasms ("coregasms").

Earlier today, Indiana University released information about a new study (the first of its kind, really) that I've co-authored with a colleague, Dr. Dennis Fortenberry, about an experience some women have with having orgasms while they engage in physical exercises such as sit-ups, biking/spinning, pull-ups, chin-ups and other exercises (some popular magazines term this type of orgasm a "coregasm" as in many cases the exercises seem to be related to core muscular activity/strength). The study is recently published in the scientific journal Sexual and Relationship Therapy.

You can read our release below and find more detail about women's exercise-induced orgasms (coregasms) in my newest book, Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered for Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex.

If you have questions about the study, or what we found, send me an email at DrDebby@MySexProfessor.com and I'll answer them here this week on my Psychology Today blog. Looking forward to hearing from you! [Update: I've answered your questions here.]

UPDATE: Since this study, we've since conducted several additional studies about exercise-induced orgasm and arousal. You can read more about these in my forthcoming book, The Coregasm Workout, which is devoted to what we do (and don't yet) understand about exercise arousal and exercise orgasms. 

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Findings from a first-of-its-kind study by Indiana University researchers confirm anecdotal evidence that exercise—absent sex or fantasies—can lead to female orgasm.

While the findings are new, reports of this phenomenon, sometimes called "coregasm" because of its association with exercises for core abdominal muscles, have circulated in the media for years, said Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In addition to being a researcher, Herbenick is a widely read advice columnist and book author.

"The most common exercises associated with exercise-induced orgasm were abdominal exercises, climbing poles or ropes, biking/spinning and weight lifting," Herbenick said. "These data are interesting because they suggest that orgasm is not necessarily a sexual event, and they may also teach us more about the bodily processes underlying women's experiences of orgasm."

The findings are published in a special issue of Sexual and Relationship Therapy, a leading peer-reviewed journal in the area of sex therapy and sexual health. Co-author is J. Dennis Fortenberry, M.D., professor at the IU School of Medicine and Center for Sexual Health Promotion affiliate.

The results are based on surveys administered online to 124 women who reported experiencing exercise-induced orgasms (EIO) and 246 women who experienced exercise-induced sexual pleasure (EISP). The women ranged in age from 18 to 63. Most were in a relationship or married, and about 69 percent identified themselves as heterosexual.

Here are some key findings:

  • About 40 percent of women who had experienced EIO and EISP had done so on more than 10 occasions.
  • Most of the women in the EIO group reported feeling some degree of self-consciousness when exercising in public places, with about 20 percent reporting they could not control their experience.
  • Most women reporting EIO said they were not fantasizing sexually or thinking about anyone they were attracted to during their experiences.
  • Diverse types of physical exercise were associated with EIO and EISP. Of the EIO group, 51.4 percent reported experiencing an orgasm in connection with abdominal exercises within the previous 90 days. Others reported experiencing orgasm in connection to such exercises as weight lifting (26.5 percent), yoga (20 percent), bicycling (15.8), running (13.2 percent) and walking/hiking (9.6 percent).
  • In open-ended responses, ab exercises were particularly associated with the "captain's chair," which consists of a rack with padded arm rests and back support that allows the legs to hang free. The goal is to repeatedly lift the knees toward the chest or toward a 90-degree angle with the body.

Herbenick said that the mechanisms behind exercise-induced orgasm and exercise-induced sexual pleasure remain unclear and, in future research, they hope to learn more about triggers for both. She also said that study findings may help women who experience EIO/EISP feel more normal about their experiences or put them into context.

Herbenick cautioned that it is not yet known whether such exercises can improve women's sexual experiences.

"It may be that exercise—which is already known to have significant benefits to health and well-being—has the potential to enhance women's sexual lives as well."

The study did not determine how common it is for women to experience exercise-induced orgasm or exercise-induced sexual pleasure. But the authors note that it took only five weeks to recruit the 370 women who experienced the phenomenon, suggesting it is not rare.

"Magazines and blogs have long highlighted cases of what they sometimes call 'coregasms,'" Herbenick said. "But aside from early reports by Kinsey and colleagues, this is an area of women's sexual health research that has been largely ignored over the past six decades."

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Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH is a research scientist at Indiana University, a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction, Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva, The I Love You More Book, The Good in Bed Guide to Anal Pleasuring, Great in Bed and Sex Made Easy. Follow her on Twitter @DebbyHerbenick

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: adria.richards

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a Research Scientist and Associate Director at The Center for Sexual Health Promotion and a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute.

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