Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
This is one of those columns that are best read with snicker-free maturity. Here’s why. That smile you see on the gym floor may be connected to far more than just completing a great core workout.
University-based research has confirmed that women experience “coregasms,” exercise-induced orgasms (EIO) and exercise-induced sexual pleasure (EISP), while working out. Kinsey first described this phenomenon in 1953 when he reported that approximately 5% of women have orgasms linked to physical exercise in his book, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.”
Research reported on just this month in the peer-reviewed journal, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, from Indiana University Medical School and its Center for Sexual Health Promotion, provides far more updated qualitative and quantitative data.
It took only five weeks to recruit between 400-500 or more women for this online survey, all of who experienced EIO or EISP. The average age of the subjects was 30 years old, about 70% were heterosexual, and most were either in a relationship or married. Of course, the media leaped on this newest set of findings, though anecdotal reports about this phenomenon have circled for decades.
Here are the key findings from this new study:
40% of the women who experienced EIO and EISP have done so on more than 10 occasions, with some level of embarrassment.
Most of the women who experienced EIO or EISP were just exercising, not thinking of anything sexual or about anyone in the gym
51.4% said their first “orgasm” experience was related to multiple sets of crunches or other abdominal exercises (“coregasm” comes from the core and ab routines that they linked to EIO and EISP)
26.5% experienced an orgasm while weight lifting
20% while doing yoga (“yogasms”)
15.8% while biking or spinning
13.2% while running
9.6% while walking or hiking
The “Captain’s Chair,” in which a person supports her weight on her forearms on padded arm rests while her body hangs and she lifts her knees towards her chest, is the one exercise most woman mentioned as being linked to EIO and EISP.
Other core exercises that may give rise to a “coregasm” include hanging straight leg raise, hanging side crunches, single leg planks, arm pullover crunches, and medicine ball blasts on a slant board. The researchers, led by Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., MPH and J. Dennis Fortenberry, MD, indicate that it’s more than core muscles that are involved in these physiological experiences.
What does all of this new data mean? For one, according to the researchers, exercise may potentially enhance women’s sexual lives. Further, the findings suggest that orgasm is not necessarily only a sexual event.
Whether these exercise induced orgasms or exercise induced sexual pleasures come from a tightening of the pelvic muscles, a build up of tension and nerve impulses, the common view among many women surveyed appears to be to care less why it happens, but to be happy it does.
The researchers have stated they don’t want their study to be “sensationalized.” Good luck with that one. They also hope that women who read about their findings don’t come to feel pressured to “perform” more than a good workout at the gym. Finally, they also stated concern that the thought of EIO or EISP might leave others at the gym “uncomfortable.” They left out, causing long lines at the “Captain’s Chair.”
Bottom line? Add this to the long and growing list of good reasons to work out.