Ask the health educator: Are there physical benefits to sex?

—Carson G., University of North Dakota

Yes!

First, it’s important to define sex. Sex can be with yourself (masturbation) or with others. It’s a consensual act between partners engaging in any agreed-upon activity. Here are some of the physical benefits:

Moderate workout Sex is a form of exercise—though it may not be as rigorous as some other aerobic activities. Sex can get the heart rate up and it requires the use of various muscles. While I’m not suggesting that we use sex as an alternative to workouts, it can supplement them.

Reduced risk of certain diseases Fun fact: Males who ejaculate frequently (at least 21 times a month) are less likely to develop prostate cancer, studies suggest. While the research isn’t complete, there is no known harm associated with ejaculating this often. Unless masturbation takes a person away from work, academics, commitments, relationships, or friendships, it’s healthy.

Increased bladder control This has been shown for women. Sex can be a good workout for the pelvic floor muscles, because contractions of those muscles before and during orgasm can help strengthen them. That strengthening protects against incontinence, or the loss of bladder control, which affects about three in ten women during their lives.

Pain relief Orgasms can help reduce pain from migraines or cluster headaches, according to a 2013 study in the journal Cephalalgia.

Relaxation and sleep Various studies have shown that sex (including masturbation) can help reduce stress and assist with sleep. There’s some research to suggest that sex can help lower blood pressure (one study specifically states that this benefit comes from sex with a partner).

Protection from overwork People who have less sex tend to accept more assignments at work, compensating for their frustration, according to a study by German researchers.

(*Name changed)