Kegel exercises are widely recommended for those who want to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles, especially those experiencing urinary incontinence. The most attractive feature of Kegel exercises is their simplicity — you can do them whenever and wherever you want. In fact, they’re so discreet that you can do them while standing in a queue at a grocery store, traveling in a metro, or anywhere else.
But what are Kegel exercises, how do they work, and how can you perform them? This article provides all the information you need about Kegel exercises.
What are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises are clench-and-release exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, i.e., the muscles in the region between your hips. The pelvis holds the reproductive organs, and the pelvic floor muscles form a series of tissues that support the bottom of the pelvis, keeping your internal organs in place. Weakened pelvic floor muscles lead to the loss of bladder control and urinary incontinence.
The Need for Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are useful for men and women with weakened pelvic floor muscles.
Women often experience weakened pelvic floor muscles due to aging, weight fluctuations, hormonal changes, childbirth, and pregnancy. In women, the pelvic floor muscles support the bowels, bladder, and womb, and when they’re weak, the organs lower into the vagina, leading to extreme discomfort and the loss of bladder control.
Men experience weakened pelvic floor muscles due to aging, underlying medical conditions, or after prostate surgeries. In the case of men, the loss of support of the pelvic floor muscles leads to urinary and fecal incontinence. Kegel exercises serve the same function in men and women — strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and restore urinary control.
Understanding the Pelvic Floor Muscles
Most people have difficulty while trying to local the pelvic floor muscles to concentrate on. The following are tips to identify them:
- Insert a clean finger inside your vagina and tighten the vaginal canal around your fingers to locate the muscles.
- Stop your urine mid-flow to identify the pelvic floor muscles. However, you should only use this method to identify the pelvic floor muscles, and you shouldn’t make a habit of stopping your urine mid-flow.
- If you contact your gynecologist, they may provide a vaginal cone to help you identify the pelvic floor muscles. The gynecologist places the vaginal cone into the vagina, and you use your pelvic floor muscles to keep it in place.
Men also struggle while locating the correct group of pelvic floor muscles responsible for urinary incontinence. The following are tips to identify the correct pelvic floor muscles:
- Insert a clean finger into the rectum and squeeze it without tightening your thighs, buttocks, or abdomen. You’ll use the pelvic floor muscles to squeeze your finger.
- When you feel like passing gas, identify the muscles used to stop the gas.
- Stop your urine mid-flow and identify the muscles used, but don’t do this regularly.
- If you can’t locate them on your own, contact your doctor for help. They may use biofeedback to locate the pelvic floor muscles.
Step-by-Step Guide to Kegel Exercises
- Lie down or sit somewhere comfortable.
- Contract the pelvic floor muscles for up to 5 seconds.
- Relax for up to 5 seconds.
- Contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles at least 10 times.
Tips for Kegel Exercises
- When you first start, you should perform the Kegel exercises while lying down or sitting comfortably in your home. As you become more comfortable with the exercises, you can do them anytime and anywhere.
- While performing Kegel exercises, avoid contracting your abdominal muscles, buttocks, legs, or other muscles. Place your hands on your belly to avoid abdominal contractions.
- Increase the length of contractions gradually. If you’re comfortable with 5 seconds, then move up to 10 seconds and so on.
- Perform 30 to 40 Kegel exercises (3 to 4 sets) per day, spreading out each session over the entire day. Set a reminder on your phone to do the exercises. Since they’re stealth exercises, you can also do them while waiting at stoplights, grocery shopping, or riding the elevator.
- Spread a few 2-3 second contractions between your sessions for diversity.
- Do Kegels when you feel the urgent need to urinate and doubt if you can make it to the restroom in time. The Kegels will buy you enough time to find a restroom.
- Have patience — it may take several months to see the results of your Kegel exercises.
- If the Kegel exercises don’t work, contact a doctor to discuss other methods for your urinary incontinence.
- Don’t go overboard with the Kegel exercises.