If you left the gym feeling a little too good after that killer abs class, you’re not alone. New (and first-of-its-kind) research from Indiana University suggests that exercise-induced orgasms and exercise-induced sexual pleasure may not be the rare freak occurrence you might think.
Researchers gave 530 women an anonymous online survey, and 124 reported experiencing exercise-induced orgasms (almost half of them had 11 or more in their lives!) and 246 said they’ve felt exercise-induced sexual pleasure (meaning they were aroused but didn’t have an actual orgasm).
Experts aren’t sure what mechanism in the body links exercise to orgasms and feel that it’s too early to discuss any possible theories. But one thing is clear: “This research suggests that we've misunderstood orgasms in some way,” says study author Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and author of “Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered for Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex.”
In other words, we think of them as a purely sexual experience, but perhaps that’s not the only case and it’s possible to connect our mind and body in similar ways during exercise as well.
A particularly intriguing aspect of the research is that most of the respondents who experience these orgasms said that they could actually control it in some way, which seems to put to rest the thought that these orgasms are always random or spontaneous. “Women wrote that if they wanted to experience it, they knew they could do A, B or C,” says Herbenick.
Now for the part you’ve been waiting for (and the real reason you’re still reading): What’s the magic orgasm-triggering move? All signs point to abdominal exercises, with nearly 52 percent of the women who experience these fitness orgasms saying they’d had one in connection with ab work in the past 90 days (weight lifting, yoga, bicycling, running and walking/hiking were the other commonly linked exercises).
If you want to get really specific, try three sets of 15 repetitions in the Captain’s Chair. This gym staple (the metal apparatus with padded arm rests and back support that allows the legs to hang free) that works your abs was particularly associated with bringing on the big O.
Bottom line: If you’re one of the lucky women who gets an added perk while working your abs, you’re in good company. Thanks to this study — inspired by Herbenick’s personal conversations with women who reported this experience over the years — we now know that exercise-induced orgasms may be more common than previously thought.
But don’t feel like you should experience orgasms from exercise. “We're all built a little differently and have different life experiences,” says Herbenick. “This research may help teach us more about the bodily processes involved in orgasm than we currently understand.”
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