Well, here's one unique benefit to going to the gym. According to a new study, exercise-induced orgasms and sexual pleasure are pretty common among women — with or without a partner. Once thought of as a bit of a rare occurrence or even an urban legend in the blog world, exercise-induced orgasms (EIO) or exercise-induced sexual pleasure (EISP) are quite real and quite common.
Published in a special issue of Sexual and Relationship Therapy, researchers administered online surveys to 124 women who reported experiencing exercise-induced orgasms and 246 women who experienced exercise-induced sexual pleasure. The women ranged in age from 18 to 63. Most were in a relationship or married, and about 69 percent identified themselves as heterosexual.
About 40 percent of women who had experienced EIO and EISP had done so on more than 10 occasions, and most women reporting said they were not fantasizing sexually or thinking about anyone they were attracted to before or during their EIO.
"Given the number of women we were quickly able to find who experience exercise-induced orgasm and/or sexual pleasure, there’s a sense that this is not a rare phenomenon," says Debby Herbenick, PhD, research scientist at Indiana University and author of Sex Made Easy.
"The fact that many women experience exercise through the bodily movements of physical exercises suggests that perhaps we’ve misunderstood orgasm in some way – that it’s not only a sexual event, but perhaps a bodily experience we’ve mostly taught ourselves to experience during sex but that can also be experienced during exercise," she says.
In the study, EIO was associated with a wide range of types of exercise including weight lifting (26.5 percent), yoga (20 percent), bicycling (15.8), running (13.2 percent) and walking/hiking (9.6 percent). The most common exercise for EIO though? Ab exercises. A total of 51 percent of women surveyed said they experienced an orgasm in connection with abdominal exercises, giving the EIO nickname "coregasm" — which many bloggers use — some credence.
Doing ab work on the Captain's Chair was listed as the most common place for an EIO or ESP, according to the study. The Captain's Chair 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 believes this particular move may result in an EIO for a few different reasons.
"We don’t know, but I suspect it’s more about the core muscular activity rather than only the repetitive motion (after all, reps are common for many exercises)," she says. "That said, it does appear that reps are part of it. Women typically report exercise induced orgasms as occurring after a certain number of reps or time spent exercising."
Naturally, some women in the study reported feeling some degree of self-consciousness when exercising in public places, with about 20 percent reporting they could not control their experience. Some even thought of themselves as "weird" in some way, Herbenick says. She hopes that this research will provide some context to their experience and help them to feel more normal, as they are definitely not alone in their experience.
"They do likely have a responsive body and/or have hit upon exercises that work with their body to enhance pleasure or make orgasms perhaps easier to come by in this way," she says. "We may find that some of these exercises can help women to naturally enhance their arousal or ease of orgasm."
Some women though considered their EIOs and EISP a well-kept private secret that they enjoyed alone or sometimes with their partner while exercising together.
"That we can do something that is good for our bodies and our minds – and may just happen to enhance our sexual lives too – is, I think, something to be happy about, and count ourselves lucky about, rather than feel embarrassed about," she says. "That said, women or men who feel self-conscious about their response may be able to tailor their workouts so that they are exercising in more private spaces or so that, in public at least, they’re mainly or only doing the exercises that are unlikely to trigger an orgasmic response."
And her advice if it happens to you? Don't sweat it.
"No one can necessarily tell when you’re feeling pleasure or an orgasm," Herbenick says. "Women and men alike already make so many faces and sounds while exercising, simply because of the physical exertion or concentration involved in exercising, that it’s unlikely a person can tell one from the other."
Have you ever experienced an EIO or EISP? Did it embarrass you? Let's discuss!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.