Orgasming while exercising

Hey Alice!

I'm an athlete, and about a year ago, I purchased one of those ab rollers. One time, I was going through the motions and I experienced an orgasm. Now, it happens about every time I use it. I thought it was extremely weird, but then read where women experience orgasms through lots of things. I was just wondering how it is possible for those feelings to happen just by working out my abs. Also, what are some other weird ways that women have had orgasms? Thanks so much.

—Abs of Steel

Dear Abs of Steel,

It sounds like you may be having what's known in the research world as an exercise-induced orgasm. You're right that there are many, even surprising ways in which people orgasm—one of which is through exercise. In fact, one recent study estimated that about nine percent of people in the United States have experienced an exercise-induced orgasm at some point in their lives, with no apparent difference in prevalence rates between genders. Just as you describe, core-related exercises are some of those most commonly associated with orgasms. Indeed, for some people, toning the abs and getting an orgasm at the same time may be a two-for-one special, though others may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about the experience.

While some people orgasm from direct stimulation of the clitoris or through penetration, others are triggered by a variety of sensations, thoughts, and experiences. While there has been some research into the sheer variety of orgasmic experiences, there’s very little scientific evidence as to the underlying causes, and indeed, the causes may be highly variable and specific to individual people and situations. One hypothesized cause is that muscles in the lower body (the abdomen, pelvic floor, upper thighs, and buttocks) are tightened and released repeatedly during exercise and that these regular contractions in the lower body may cause arousing feelings and sexual response. Another hypothesized cause is that the friction from clothing may be rubbing in just the right spot during exercise, resulting in a rhythmic massage to the genital area. It's also possible that you’re triggering an area of your body that is your own unique erogenous zone. Exercise is also a great way to release emotional, mental, and physical tension that, for many people, contributes to increased sexual desire and satisfactory sexual experiences. Ultimately, every person’s body is different and a variety of factors are at play here, so the exact cause of orgasm during exercise is difficult to pinpoint.

Another reason why you may be orgasming during exercise may be related to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (or SNS, for short) that occurs during exercise. The SNS is highly involved in physiological sexual arousal, and moderate to intense exercise has been linked with greater SNS activation. In other words, exercise itself doesn’t typically cause arousal, but exercising 15 to 30 minutes prior to being exposed to a sexual context is associated with a more intense physiological arousal response. If you menstruate, where you are in your cycle can also impact your hormonal system and subsequent likelihood of orgasm.

What about other ways that people orgasm? Some people become aroused and are able to orgasm by thinking sexy thoughts, feeling the vibrations while riding a motorcycle, sitting on or leaning against the washing machine during the spin cycle, feeling pressure from a bicycle seat while riding, thrusting against a pillow, or using water pressure from a shower head or faucet against their genitals. Other nonsexual causes of orgasm include deep breathing techniques that may lead to a euphoric state of mind, sensations from urinating or defecating, receiving a foot massage, childbirth, breastfeeding, and drug use. Some people even reach orgasm in their sleep—a phenomenon that is actually more common than exercise-induced orgasms! These realities all further underline your point about the vast variety of ways in which people reach climax.

Last updated Feb 17, 2023
Originally published Jan 11, 2002

Can’t find information on the site about your health concern or issue?