Sex Q&A

Sex Question Friday: Do Some Women Really Experience Orgasms While Exercising?

December 6, 2013 by Justin Lehmiller


Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who was curious about the phenomenon of exercise-induced orgasm among women.

Are “coregasms” real? Is there any research about this?

They absolutely are real, and believe it or not, scientists have known about this for over a half-century! The technical scientific term for an orgasm that occurs during sexual activity is “exercise-induced orgasm.” The term “coregasm” is one that is used frequently in the popular media and certainly has a sexier ring to it, but it is somewhat of a misnomer because core exercises are not the sole cause of these orgasms. These orgasms were first described in Alfred Kinsey’s seminal book on women’s sexuality published in 1953 (Sexual Behavior in the Human Female). Kinsey estimated that about 5% of people may have orgasms from exercise or high muscule tension [1]. So, exercise-induced orgasms may not all that rare, nor are they the brand new discovery heralded by many fitness magazines.

So what do we know about this type of orgasm? A recent study published in Sexual and Relationship Therapy yielded some interesting findings. In this research, an online sample of 530 women were recruited for a study examining “women’s experiences of sexual pleasure or orgasm while performing physical exercise” [1]. These women were asked whether they had ever experienced sexual pleasure and/or orgasm while exercising, what types of exercises contribute to sexual pleasure and orgasm, how often this happens to them, and how they feel about it.

Overall, 23% of the women reported at least one experience with exercise-induced orgasm. In addition, 46% reported having experienced sexual pleasure (but not orgasm) while exercising, while 31% reported no experiences with exercise-induced pleasure or orgasm at all. Of those who had experienced sexual pleasure and/or orgasm during exercise, this wasn’t usually a one-time thing. In fact, the majority of these women reported having experienced this at least six times.

The single most common exercise associated with orgasm were abdominal workouts (implicated in 45% of cases); however, a wide range of physical activities comprised the other half of cases, including weight lifting, running, yoga, swimming, jazzercise, and even horseback riding. So, many of these cases were true “coregasms,” but there’s clearly more than that going on here. It is also worth noting that there was even more variability in the types of exercises associated with sexual pleasure, but the most common was biking, followed by weight lifting, ab workouts, and yoga.

Most women who reported exercise-induced orgasms were at least somewhat self-conscious about this. Most reported occasional feelings of embarrassment, as well as a fear that others would realize what was going on. Among those who experienced sexual pleasure but not orgasm, most were not self-conscious, embarrassed, or worried about discovery.

So why is exercise related to sexual pleasure and orgasm in many women? Unfortunately, we still don’t have the answer to that. It does not seem to be the case that these women just have sex on the brain when they exercise (in fact, most of the women in this study reported that they were not sexually fantasizing at the time). Among the possible mechanisms that have been floated are muscle pressure in the genital area and activation of the sympathetic nervous system; however, more work is needed to shed light on the precise cause(s). Of course, the possibility remains that different mechanisms may be at play in different women.

For now, all we can conclude is that exercise-induced orgasms are real. Also, although most of us tend to think about orgasms as purely sexual events, we may need to rethink some of our notions about what an orgasm is and how it can happen.

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[1] Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W.B., Martin, C.E., & Gebhard, P. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: Saunders.

[2] Herbenick, D., & Fortenberry, J.D. (2011). Exercise-induced orgasm and pleasure among women. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 26, 373-388.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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