Talk About A Runner’s High!

By: Ashley Thompson, PhD 

Although I am fairly certain that many of you are familiar with the phenomenon known as “Runner’s High” (i.e., strenuous exercise resulting in an extreme rush of endorphins), I would bet that “Exercised-Induced Orgasms” (EIOs) are unchartered territory. Well, if I am correct, today is your lucky day because you are about to receive a crash course in EIOs.

EIOs are defined as “the experience of an orgasm that occurs during physical exercise” and, until recently, were thought to be old wives tales or figments of people’s imaginations. However, within the last few years, two prominent researchers at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University (Dr. Debbie Herbenick & Dr. Dennis Fortenberry) began to look into people’s experiences with sexual arousal and orgasm resulting from physical exercise.

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After some extensive data collection here is what they found:

(1) Although women are more likely than men to experience EIOs, men also report experiencing arousal and orgasms while engaging in physical exercise. However, to date, the only published data has focused exclusively on women.

(2) Many activities can bring on experiences of EIOs including: climbing poles or ropes, weight lifting, running, stretching, yoga, aerobics, swimming, chin-ups, pull-ups, dance, etc. However, EIOs are most commonly a result of abdominal exercises (i.e., a coregasm).

(3) It appears as though EIOs are fairly uncommon and fairly infrequent. Although some data has been collected, researchers do not have exact estimate of how common EIOs are. However, in a sample of 5300 women who reported experiencing an EIO at some point in their lives, a sizable proportion (23%) indicated that they experienced EIOs on a regular basis.

Despite the advances in research assessing EIO, more work is needed. I should also mention that not all women indicated that EIOs were pleasant experiences. In fact, many women reported feeling embarrassed after experiencing an EIO. So, to all the women out there, do not hit the gym today with the goal of climaxing, it most likely will not happen. Furthermore, even if it did happen, you might not enjoy the experience. Think of it this way: some women are able to achieve orgasm through oral sex, others achieve orgasm through self-stimulation, and some do not achieve orgasm at all. This is likely the case for EIOs as well, all women are different and experience pleasure in different ways.

For more information check out Dr. Herbenick’s and Dr. Fortenberry’s study:

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

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