What a Workout! Women Report that Exercise Triggers Orgasm

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March 22nd, 2012

Up to 15% of women apparently experience orgasm as a fringe benefit of physical exertion. Crunches, anyone?

Here’s one way to make workouts more palatable: combine exercise with orgasm.

It sounds like a pornographic fitness flick: women, sweaty from physical exertion, climaxing at the gym. But researchers at Indiana University say it really happens — independent of sex or fantasies. They’ve even got a name for it: “coregasm,” named thusly because abdominal exercises tend to spark the sensation.

In a survey distributed via the Internet, researchers asked women if they’d ever experienced exercise-induced orgasms (EIO) — 124 responded yes — or exercise-induced sexual pleasure (EISP); 246 had. Women were questioned about the types of exercises in which they were engaged at the time of orgasm, if the phenomenon happened repeatedly and whether they could control it, among other things.

Since there’s next to no scientific literature about orgasm while exercising, researchers prompted survey respondents to provide as much detail as possible. They learned quite a bit, according to lead author Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University.

Some women said they couldn’t help but make sounds during orgasm, which added to their feelings of self-consciousness. One woman wrote about biking strenuously uphill when she felt an orgasm coming on; embarrassed, she tried to hide it from her biking partner. According to the study:

“I had to really grind into the pedals. This must have caused me to rub on the seat in just the right away. I thought I was starting to cramp, but soon realized it felt great. [I] thought I should stop, but chose not to!”

Another woman described literally falling off a piece of gym equipment; one more recalled an errant medicine ball flying across the gym after she lost control. “Some talked about this happening as children during the Presidential fitness challenge, during pull-ups or chin-ups,” says Herbenick.

The research was published online Monday in a special issue of Sexual and Relationship Therapy. What’s so special about this issue? It’s all about orgasm: there are papers about tantra and orgasm, about non-genital kinds of orgasms deriving from mental fantasy, as well as criticisms about a perceived superiority complex surrounding vaginal orgasm. Says Herbenick: “It’s a very interesting issue.”

Herbenick’s contribution finds that exercise-induced orgasm is not of the wham-bam variety. In other words, don’t expect good vibrations from your first sit-up. “It’s often on number 15 or number 30,” says Herbenick.

Nor is what induces orgasm during exercise clear from this study. Most respondents said they weren’t daydreaming about sex at all. The catalyst seems to be the exertion itself, with abdominal exercises appearing to trigger the reaction in 51% of respondents. (The top orgasm generator in this category was the “captain’s chair,” a contraption in which the user supports her arms and back against a frame while the legs dangle, and she repeatedly raises her legs into a sitting position.) The next most likely culprits? Weight lifting, yoga, bicycling, running and walking or hiking.

Some women can induce orgasm by engaging in exercises that have previously yielded the big O; 40% of respondents reported they’d experienced orgasm or sexual pleasure while exercising more than 10 times. Others actively try to avoid climaxing in public; after all, it can be pretty mortifying. Yet even if it’s never happened to you, devoting some brain cells to its mystery and allure can serve as an excellent distraction during a workout. “Once you know about it,” observes Herbenick, “it is sometimes interesting to think about and wonder if others are experiencing it too.”

We know who’s not experiencing it: men. Sorry, guys, but this one’s (mostly) for the ladies. While Herbenick has heard of men orgasming during exercise, she says it’s far rarer. Even among the fairer sex, it’s fairly uncommon. Herbenick estimates that up to 15% of women have the uncanny and perhaps enviable ability to orgasm while exercising, a form of multitasking I’d never heard of before her research landed in my inbox. When I requested an interview with the author, an email response arrived with impeccable timing — just as I was winding up my morning boot-camp session. Alas, no fireworks.

Bonnie Rochman is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @brochman. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

Vaccines for Adults: What You Should Know

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March 21st, 2012

In 2006 when the FDA approved the first human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, it was big news. The new HPV vaccination made headlines at the time, which wasn’t surprising considering that it was the very first vaccine approved to prevent cancer — cervical cancer, to be exact.

Even though the HPV vaccine have now been around for a few years, not everyone knows exactly what it is, or what it does. You might be wondering: How does it work? Is it safe? Should you or your child get it?

So you can be more confident when you talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, here are answers to these and other common questions about the vaccine.
What Is HPV?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. It’s a virus that can be transmitted through sexual contact. During intercourse or oral sex, HPV can make its way into the genitals, mouth, or throat and cause infection.

Sexually transmitted HPV comes in more than 40 different varieties. The type of the virus you get determines what effects it has on your body. Certain types of HPV cause genital warts. Other HPV types can make cells turn cancerous. You’ve probably heard that HPV causes cervical cancer, but it also causes less common cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, head, and neck.

What’s tricky about HPV is that it doesn’t have symptoms. There’s no sore throat or fever to let you know you’ve been infected. Most people clear the infection on their own. In fact, you might have absolutely no idea you’ve been infected until you develop genital warts or have an abnormal Pap test.

Though HPV might not be as well known among sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as herpes or syphilis, it is actually the most common STI. If you’re sexually active, you’ve got about a 50/50 chance of being infected with HPV at some point in your life. That’s why immunization is so important.
There are two HPV vaccines; what’s the difference?

Two vaccines are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. One of these vaccines also protects men and women against most genital warts. Whichever of these vaccines you and your doctor choose, you should stick with the same vaccine for all three shots.
Do I have to get the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is an important way for women to protect themselves against cervical cancer, which kills about 4,000 women each year in the U.S. It can also protect both men and women against genital warts. However, vaccination doesn’t protect against all HPV types that cause cervical cancers or genital warts. Whether you have to get vaccinated depends on your age and where you live. In certain states, girls within the recommended ages may need to get the HPV vaccine in order to go to school.

When should I get the HPV immunization?

The best time to get the HPV vaccine is before you’ve started having sexual activity. That’s why the CDC recommends that girls get their vaccination at age 11 or 12, although they can get the vaccine as early as age 9. If you’re 13 or older and you haven’t already been vaccinated, you can still get the vaccine up to age 26.

Although HPV vaccination is not on the recommended immunization schedules for boys and young men, they can get the Gardasil vaccine between ages 9 and 26 to protect them against genital warts.
If I’m over age 26, can I still get vaccinated?

The HPV vaccine isn’t recommended for people over age 26, because it hasn’t been studied well enough in this age group. If enough future studies show that it is safe and effective for people over 26, the FDA may eventually start recommending it for this age group.
How many shots do I need?

You’ll get three shots of the HPV vaccine over a 6-month period. You need to take all three doses to be completely protected. You’ll get the second shot about 1 to 2 months after the first, and the third shot 6 months after the first. Once you’ve started with a vaccine brand (Cervarix or Gardasil), stick with it for all three shots.
If I already have HPV, will this vaccine treat it?

No. If you have a current HPV, the vaccine won’t get rid of the infection. However, if you have one type of HPV the vaccine may prevent you from getting another type of the virus. There’s really no way to treat the virus once you have it, although there are treatments for diseases caused by HPV such as genital warts and genital cancers. This is why you should have regular pelvic exams and Pap tests (if you’re female) to screen for cervical cancer.
Does the HPV vaccine protect me for life?

You should be protected against HPV for at least 5 years; that’s how long the vaccine has been tested to work in studies. Longer-term research is needed to confirm exactly how much longer the protection lasts. Even women who are protected against HPV with the vaccine should see their gynecologist regularly for a Pap test to check for cervical cancer since the vaccine doesn’t protect against all HPV types that can cause cervical cancer.
Will my insurance cover the cost of the HPV vaccine?

Most insurance plans cover recommended vaccines, which means that if you’re a girl or woman ages 11 to 26, your insurance should pay for the vaccine. Check with your insurance company just to be sure. If your family doesn’t have health insurance or you’re on Medicaid, you should be able to get the HPV vaccine for free through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

Is this vaccination safe?

Vaccines have to be rigorously tested before they can be widely distributed. Both HPV vaccines were tested on thousands of people and shown to be safe before they were released to the public. These vaccines have been used for several years now, and experts say the chance of them causing a serious reaction is very slim. You don’t need to worry about mercury or thimerosal with the HPV vaccine, either. It doesn’t contain these preservatives.
Is there any reason why I shouldn’t get this vaccine?

Some people shouldn’t get the vaccine. You definitely don’t want to get the HPV vaccine if you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to it or to any of its components, including baker’s yeast and latex. Let your doctor know if you have any severe allergies. Also talk to your doctor if you have an immune system problem or blood disorder.

If you’re pregnant, you’ll want to wait to get the HPV vaccine until after your baby is born. In studies, HPV vaccines didn’t cause any problems in babies whose mothers got the vaccine while pregnant, but pregnant women should not get HPV vaccine as safety studies are still ongoing.
Could I have side effects from the HPV vaccine?

You could have side effects, but if you do they should be mild. Most people who complain of symptoms after getting the HPV shot have minor issues like pain or swelling at the site of the shot, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or muscle and joint pain.

Sometimes people faint after getting the HPV vaccine or any other vaccination. Sitting down after getting the shot can prevent you from passing out.
If I get the HPV vaccine, is there a chance I could get HPV?

No. The part of the HPV virus used in both vaccines is inactivated (not live) so it can’t cause actual HPV infection.

How Low Testosterone Affects Health, Mood, and Sex

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March 21st, 2012

Low Testosterone and Sex Drive

Testosterone isn’t the only fuel for a man’s sex drive and performance. But low testosterone can reduce your ability to have satisfying sex. Lack of sex drive and erectile dysfunction are sexual problems that can result from low testosterone. If low testosterone is the cause, treating it can help.
Testosterone and the Causes of Low Libido

Researchers haven’t unraveled the mystery of just how testosterone increases libido. It’s normal for a man’s sex drive to slowly decline from its peak in his teens and 20s, but libido varies widely between men. What one man might consider a low sex drive, another might not. Also, sex drive changes within each man over time and is affected by stress, sleep, and opportunities for sex. For these reasons, defining what’s a “normal” sex drive is next to impossible. Usually, the man himself identifies a lack of sex drive as a problem. Other times, his partner may consider it to be an issue.

Low testosterone symptoms don’t always include feeling like you have no sex drive. Some men maintain sexual desire at relatively low testosterone levels. For other men, libido may lag even with normal testosterone levels. Low testosterone is one of the possible causes of low libido, however. If testosterone is lowered far enough, virtually all men will experience some decline in sex drive.

In a large study of men in Massachusetts, about 11% overall said they had a lack of sex drive. The researchers then tested all the men’s testosterone levels. About 28% of men with low testosterone had low libido. These men were relatively young, with an average age of 47; older men might have worse sexual symptoms.

Low testosterone is only one of the causes of low libido. Stress, sleep deprivation, depression, and chronic medical illnesses can also sap a man’s sex drive.
Low Testosterone and Erectile Dysfunction

Surprisingly, low testosterone by itself rarely causes erectile dysfunction, or ED. Low testosterone alone — with no other health problems — accounts for a small minority of men with erectile dysfunction.

Erection problems are usually caused by atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries. If damaged, the tiny blood vessels supplying the penis can no longer dilate to bring in the strong flow needed for a firm erection. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are the three main causes of atherosclerosis and erectile dysfunction.

At the same time, low testosterone is a frequent accomplice to atherosclerosis in creating erectile dysfunction. In studies, as many as one in three men mentioning ED to their doctor have low testosterone. Experts believe that in men with other factors causing erectile dysfunction, low testosterone can strongly contribute, making a difficult situation even worse.

Strengthening the connection, low testosterone is linked in some way with many of the conditions that lead to erectile dysfunction:

Metabolic syndrome
Obesity
Endothelial dysfunction
Diabetes

Although low testosterone isn’t known to cause them, the associations between other medical conditions and low testosterone can be significant.

Testosterone therapy improves sex drive and satisfaction with sex in many men. However, the long-term risks and benefits of testosterone replacement are unknown. Research trials on testosterone replacement in men are ongoing, although results are years away.

5 Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating

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March 20th, 2012

Drowning your sorrows in ice cream won’t help you feel better in the long run. Here are five ways to keep junk-food urges from devolving into a full-fledged binge.

Could work stress be causing your expanding waistline? A recent Finnish study found that women who had job burnout were more likely to turn to food for comfort and to eat uncontrollably, compared with women who weren’t overworked. The study‘s authors suggested that obesity treatment should include evaluations of people’s work stress and emotional eating habits.

It’s not just a stressful workweek, but also a fight with the spouse, a visit with the in-laws or an all-around low mood that can make the chocolate ice cream beckon that much more seductively. “Stress, anxiety, depression, really any kind of strong emotion can trigger an emotional binge,” says Dr. Joy Jacobs, clinical eating disorder psychologist and assistant clinical professor at University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. “Emotional eating happens whenever someone has an emotion they do not know how to handle, even happiness, and they channel it into an eating experience.”

But while self-medicating through fatty foods can provide temporary comfort, the aftermath is usually bleak. In the short-term, you’re likely to feel regret for binging; in the long-term, you may be setting yourself up for weight gain and related health problems. And spikes in consumption of junk food may end up worsening your mood overall. “We tend to go for the chocolate when we’re stressed out,” says Dr. Susan Albers, psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Family Health Center and author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. “It increases our blood sugar and we feel good, but then we experience a sudden drop. That drop makes you even more moody and you will want even more sugary snacks.”

One easy trick for curbing cravings is simple distraction. Doctors recommend finding alternatives to eating, such as calling a friend or reading a magazine — one study found that knitting helped take people quit obsessing over food. The same technique may help you overcome other bad habits too, from smoking to biting your nails.

“It’s good to get your hands engaged in something else so you cannot eat at same time,” says Albers. “Do something soothing to calm you down. It will also help you find other things that relax you besides food.” If you can distract yourself for a few minutes, the urge to eat should subside.

Logging your daily food intake can help you recognize your emotional eating triggers. Dr. Jacobs recommends jotting down the time of day you feel hungry and how you feel emotionally. This process helps differentiate between when you’re feeling physical versus emotional hunger.

“Physical hunger is usually accompanied by symptoms like a growling stomach or lightheadedness. Emotional hunger is when you want to eat, but not because you are physically starving,” says Dr. Jacobs. “People think they want to eat, but do not know why. They do not connect it to an emotion.”

Once you know your triggers, you can develop a plan for the next time you want to reach for the peanut butter jar. “If there is a certain time of day you are more likely to binge, you can change up your routine. If it’s right after work, you can do something else before going home. By changing up your routine, you ensure binging does not become a natural course of events for you. Emotional eating will not become a habit,” says Jacobs.

“You cannot be eating mindfully and emotionally at the same time,” says Albers. Mindful eating means creating an awareness of your eating habits and taking in all the sensations you experience when you eat. As you eat, savor each bite and pay attention to how you’re feeling.

“It is important to learn how to connect the feelings we get when we eat back to our physiological reactions — back to the reasons we should be eating in the first place,” says Albers. “It is about breaking our autopilot eating behaviors. We often don’t realize how much we are eating. We lose track and often overeat because we are eating mindlessly.”

Dr. Edward Abramson, professor of psychology at California State University, teaches mindful eating in his emotional eating workshops. “We have to start paying attention to our automatic eating behaviors. If a Doritos commercial comes on TV, we suddenly reach for a salty snack. When we are more deliberate about how we eat, we increase our awareness and decrease our consumption,” says Abramson. “I tell people, when you are standing in front of the fridge with the urge to eat, stop for a minute and ask yourself what do you really need right now. You may just be bored or anxious.”
Exercise helps you unwind and puts you in a better position to deal with heightened emotions. After reviewing literature on the neurocognitive aspects of eating behaviors and the impact of physical activity on the brain, researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston concluded that exercise is a great way to deal with food temptation. According to the researchers, exercise strengthens the brain’s powers of executive function — thinking ahead and controlling inhibitions — which makes it easier to say no to a second helping of dessert.

Dr. Albers specifically recommends yoga for emotional eaters. “Yoga can help you deal with temptations and be a more mindful eater,” she says. “It creates body awareness. It reduces the fight-or-flight emotion you get when you’re stressed out and increases your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which help your mood.”

The chronically sleep-deprived may be more likely to succumb to anxious snacking. Getting adequate sleep has been shown to reduce your cortisol levels — the hormone that rises when you’re anxious or stressed. “Not getting enough sleep contributes to depression, irritability and reduced ability to control stress and anxiety. All of these things will further contribute to vulnerability for emotional eating in at risk individuals,” says Jacobs.

A recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s annual Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism conference found that people who were sleep deprived tended to overeat. In fact, compared with people who got to sleep as much as they wanted, those who were rousted out of bed too early ate 550 additional calories every day. Healthland’s Alice Park wrote:

Getting a consistent and sufficient amount of sleep each night may play an important role in regulating how much we eat and how many calories we burn, and it may also help determine when we eat. Eating when we should be sleeping, for example, may increase the risk of weight gain, as the body is more likely to turn nighttime calories into fat rather than burning them off.

Overeating? Maybe you’re burned out at work

By
March 19th, 2012

Work can be a real burden for some people. They feel overwhelmingly exhausted and cynical toward their workplace environment, and believe their efforts are not valued.

In other words, they are burned out.

A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition connects these sentiments with overeating and controlled eating behaviors.

The experiment involved 230 working women. Those who were experiencing workplace burnout at the beginning of the experiment were more likely to have emotional and uncontrolled eating than those without burnout. This held true even after 12 months.

Among those without burnout, uncontrolled eating decreased significantly over the year.

“Among overweight and obese subjects, failure to make changes due to burnout and reduced resources may impair self-esteem and self-efficacy, which are important for achieving success in weight maintenance,” the study authors wrote.

Consistent with previous research, body mass index tended to be associated with uncontrolled eating and emotional eating. And overweight and obese individuals were more likely to engage in these behaviors, too. However, there was no significant difference in weight between people with and without burnout. And almost half of the people with burnout were of normal weight.

There are, of course, individual differences when it comes to responding to stress – some people actually eat less when they are stressed out, while others eat more. Weight loss and gain under stress varies, also.

The researchers also did not take into account the participants’ weight history, whether they had made significant changes before the study in terms of weight loss. This could have impacted the results.

A study involving more participants is needed to corroborate the findings of this particular investigation. But from what is known so far, experts recommend confronting the burnout head-on.

“What I find in a lot of people is that food is not the issue. They’re not necessarily eating the food for a physiological reason, but they’re doing it for a psychological reason. It just happens that food is so readily available,” says Meagan Mohammadione, R.D., L.D., at the Emory Bariatric Center in Atlanta, who was not involved in the study.

Dr. Melina Jampolis, physician and nutrition expert for CNNHealth.com, also views stress as a critical issue for nutrition. If stress isn’t addressed and managed in a long-term way, dietary and exercise changes are very challenging, she wrote in an e-mail.

In fact, short-term diet changes could actually aggravate the stress women feel by altering their brain chemistry and decreasing critical nutrient intake. For example, reducing carbohydrates could lower mood, which is already low.

“This really ties in to the growing body of research looking at the ‘medication’-like properties of food in some cases, their impact on neurotransmitters in the brain, and also the interaction of the hypothalamic/adrenal(stress)/pituitary access and weight control,” she wrote.

And note that this study was only done on women. Mohammadione says she sees many more women than men suffering from emotional eating. And while women tend to eat a lot when they’re overwhelmed, men’s emotional eating seems to be more tied to the perception that they need to finish everything on their plate – at least, in Mohammadione’s view.

So what about cravings when you’re at work, when the vending machine is tempting you with junk food? Mohammadione recommends planning to have healthy snacks readily available at work, such as baby carrots and apples, “so that [when] you absolutely do have to eat, you have a better choice.”

Also, take a walk, she said. Just stepping away from your desk and getting a little exercise can replace that chocolate bar you were going to munch on.

“The emotional eating, it hits very quickly,” Mohammadione said. “Your response to it has to be very quick as well.”

Mindfulness techniques are being used to help people with eating problems. It’s a way of being conscious and nonjudgmental about the emotions you’re having, and translating that awareness to the practice of eating. For more information, check out the Center for Mindful Eating.