Here’s one way to make workouts more palatable: combine exercise with orgasm.
It sounds like a pornographic fitness flick: women, sweaty from physical exertion, climaxing at the gym. But researchers at Indiana University say it really happens — independent of sex or fantasies. They’ve even got a name for it: “coregasm,” named thusly because abdominal exercises tend to spark the sensation.
In a survey distributed via the Internet, researchers asked women if they’d ever experienced exercise-induced orgasms (EIO) — 124 responded yes — or exercise-induced sexual pleasure (EISP); 246 had. Women were questioned about the types of exercises in which they were engaged at the time of orgasm, if the phenomenon happened repeatedly and whether they could control it, among other things.
Since there’s next to no scientific literature about orgasm while exercising, researchers prompted survey respondents to provide as much detail as possible. They learned quite a bit, according to lead author Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University.
Some women said they couldn’t help but make sounds during orgasm, which added to their feelings of self-consciousness. One woman wrote about biking strenuously uphill when she felt an orgasm coming on; embarrassed, she tried to hide it from her biking partner. According to the study:
“I had to really grind into the pedals. This must have caused me to rub on the seat in just the right away. I thought I was starting to cramp, but soon realized it felt great. [I] thought I should stop, but chose not to!”
Another woman described literally falling off a piece of gym equipment; one more recalled an errant medicine ball flying across the gym after she lost control. “Some talked about this happening as children during the Presidential fitness challenge, during pull-ups or chin-ups,” says Herbenick.
The research was published online Monday in a special issue of Sexual and Relationship Therapy. What’s so special about this issue? It’s all about orgasm: there are papers about tantra and orgasm, about non-genital kinds of orgasms deriving from mental fantasy, as well as criticisms about a perceived superiority complex surrounding vaginal orgasm. Says Herbenick: “It’s a very interesting issue.”
Herbenick’s contribution finds that exercise-induced orgasm is not of the wham-bam variety. In other words, don’t expect good vibrations from your first sit-up. “It’s often on number 15 or number 30,” says Herbenick.
Nor is what induces orgasm during exercise clear from this study. Most respondents said they weren’t daydreaming about sex at all. The catalyst seems to be the exertion itself, with abdominal exercises appearing to trigger the reaction in 51% of respondents. (The top orgasm generator in this category was the “captain’s chair,” a contraption in which the user supports her arms and back against a frame while the legs dangle, and she repeatedly raises her legs into a sitting position.) The next most likely culprits? Weight lifting, yoga, bicycling, running and walking or hiking.
(MORE: The Female Erotic Brain, Mapped)
Some women can induce orgasm by engaging in exercises that have previously yielded the big O; 40% of respondents reported they’d experienced orgasm or sexual pleasure while exercising more than 10 times. Others actively try to avoid climaxing in public; after all, it can be pretty mortifying. Yet even if it’s never happened to you, devoting some brain cells to its mystery and allure can serve as an excellent distraction during a workout. “Once you know about it,” observes Herbenick, “it is sometimes interesting to think about and wonder if others are experiencing it too.”
We know who’s not experiencing it: men. Sorry, guys, but this one’s (mostly) for the ladies. While Herbenick has heard of men orgasming during exercise, she says it’s far rarer. Even among the fairer sex, it’s fairly uncommon. Herbenick estimates that up to 15% of women have the uncanny and perhaps enviable ability to orgasm while exercising, a form of multitasking I’d never heard of before her research landed in my inbox. When I requested an interview with the author, an email response arrived with impeccable timing — just as I was winding up my morning boot-camp session. Alas, no fireworks.