Why Do Some People Orgasm When They Work Out?

We all know that working out does a body good, but for some of us, the pleasurable feeling from working out can reach a whole new level.

In a famous 2012 study published in Sexual and Relationship Therapy, researchers at the University of Indiana surveyed 530 women and found that 23 percent of them had experienced an orgasm during exercise and 46 percent had felt sexual pleasure while working out. (Working from this data, the authors estimated that 15 percent of women in the general population have had a mid-workout orgasm.)

For some, it happened when they were lifting weights, climbing, or in the midst of a particularly bouncy bike ride, but the majority of the respondents reported it occurring during core workouts. Thus, the exercise-induced orgasm was given the nickname “coregasm.”

The study (and several others like it) was headed up by Dr. Debby Herbenick, who is now the Director of the Center for Sexual Health at the University of Indiana’s School of Public Health. During a 2015 interview to promote her book The Coregasm Workout, she said that coregasms are similar in sensation to orgasms from vaginal intercourse, “but they tend to feel more dull, less intense, and more tingly.”

The exercise most likely to produce this result? The Captain’s Chair, an exercise that’s like a hanging leg raise. Herbenick found that women are most likely to orgasm if they start the workout with at least 20 minutes of cardio and then immediately get into a lengthy core workout without taking a break.

But Do Men Have Orgasms During Exercise?

While women appear to be more likely to discuss it, it’s estimated that the same percentage of women and men experience these orgasms.

What’s fascinating about the men is that most of them don’t have erections before they ejaculate. And for the most part, they tend to be more from climbing exercises.

Herbenick reasons that this could be because males tend to have stronger cores than females, and “as a result there are fewer things that are really difficult for their core.” Crunches aren’t so demanding, but climbing is.

So Why Do People Orgasm During Workouts?

We really don’t know. Scientists have theorized that certain exercises, particularly when muscles are pretty fatigued toward the tail end of a workout, stimulate internal body parts, like nerve pathways, that are associated with orgasm.

It’s also been suggested that the reason they tend to happen during high-rep core workouts is that fatigued abdominal muscles might put extra pressure on the clitoris or stimulate the uterus, which can sometimes lead to orgasm.

But since men get coregasms as well, these explanations don’t seem to answer everything. There are also theories that coregasms happen because stimulating the core may also stimulate the pelvic floor muscles, which are associated with sexual pleasure.

There’s also a theory that suggests since both exercise and orgasms affect the body in similar ways — heightened heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and pleasure hormones — it’s possible that among some people the two sources of stimulation can be “confused,” according to psychology professor Barry Komisaruk, PhD.

The truth is that we’re not sure. There’s a lot we just don’t know about the body.

But What If I Don’t Want to Orgasm When I Work Out?

Orgasms rarely occur suddenly and unexpectedly — as is the case when they happen outside of the gym, you can typically tell when you’re, um, close. So if you feel one coming on at the gym, you should be able to prevent it by just stopping whatever exercise you’re doing.

Usually, coregasms can be prevented. But for others, they make for great motivation to head to the gym.

Featured image via @elleryphotos on Instagram.

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Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of things.After Shanghai, he went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before finishing his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and heading to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like BarBend, Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.No fan of writing in the third person, Nick’s passion for health stems from an interest in self improvement: How do we reach our potential?Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.