5 Kegel Exercises Benefits
Kegel exercises are broadly praised for offering numerous benefits. And yet, many women remain in the dark about what they are, how to do them and if they’re really necessary.
While these are indeed common times your doctor will recommend Kegel exercises (also known as pelvic muscle exercises or pelvic floor exercises), *all* women can benefit from doing Kegel exercises regularly. Let’s look at some of the benefits...
Benefits of Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises focus on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. What are these muscles? Well, the pelvic floor muscles do an important job; they support the bladder, bowels and reproductive organs.
Like any exercise, you must do Kegel exercises regularly (daily) to see the following benefits. But if you follow a dedicated regime of doing Kegel exercises, you’ll see they help with:
1. Maintaining the Strength of Pelvic Floor Muscles
Just like any muscle, your pelvic floor muscles can become weaker over time, as you age. They can also be weakened by trauma, like childbirth or surgery.
If you broke your leg, you’d likely go through physiotherapy to help your leg muscles recover and then continue to work out. The same goes for pelvic floor muscles—they need both care when injured and a maintenance regime to stay in tip-top condition.
2. Treatment for or Prevention of Urinary Incontinence
In particular, doing pelvic floor exercises regularly can help prevent urinary incontinence that is caused by weak pelvic floor muscles (particularly stress incontinence or mixed incontinence—the two most common kinds of incontinence).
If you already suffer from incontinence and don’t do Kegel exercises, your doctor will likely recommend you start as part of your treatment plan.
3. Prevents Involuntary Passing of Gas or Fecal Incontinence
Since the pelvic floor muscles support the bowel as well as the bladder, keeping them strong also helps prevent fecal incontinence (involuntary bowel movements) or uncontrollable gas.
4. Helps with Pelvic Organ Prolapse
About one third of women are affected by prolapse or similar conditions in their lifetime. Pelvic organ prolapse may occur when the pelvic floor muscles can no longer support the pelvic organs, i.e. the bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel, and rectum.
5. Orgasm Improvement
Perhaps the most tantalizing reason for an otherwise healthy woman to start doing pelvic floor exercises is the promise that they might lead to deeper, more pleasurable orgasm.
Kegel exercises can also enhance your sexual health by helping you control your vaginal muscles, which allows your vagina to be more open (this is also helpful during pelvic exams). Moreover, the exercises increase blood circulation in the pelvic area, which can increase arousal.
Things to Watch Out for When Doing Kegel Exercises
With the above benefits, it may seem like a no-brainer to start doing Kegel exercises regularly. And indeed, this is advisable for most women. Indeed, don’t wait to experience something like incontinence to motivate you to strengthen your pelvic floor!
Like all exercises, your muscles do not transform overnight. This is about sure and steady repetition, so consistency is key.
That said, there are some things to be aware of before you jump right in, namely:
- Stop if you experience pain: Kegel exercises are not the kind of exercise where you should “feel the burn” or “push through the pain”. Indeed, they should be completely painless. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss it if you experience pain.
- You shouldn’t flex other muscles or strain: It’s important to know how to do Kegel exercises before you start (like most exercises, you’ll see the best results if you’re performing them properly). It’s especially important to note that your butt and abdomen should stay relaxed when you do Kegel exercises. Moreover, you should not strain in any way when doing Kegel exercises. This can have a counterproductive result, adding pressure to the muscles instead of strengthening them.
- Don’t do Kegel exercises by stopping urine mid-stream: Most of us have heard that it’s our pelvic floor muscles we use to stop peeing mid-stream. This has led some women to believe that’s a good time/way to do Kegel exercises. This is wrong! While stopping urine mid-stream can be a helpful way of identifying the right muscles it should not become your Kegel regime. In fact, doing this regularly can disrupt your ability to urinate and have the opposite effect; weakening your pelvic floor muscles. This is because when you urinate your brain sends a message to your bladder to loosen the muscles to allow urine to pass out of the body. By holding it in, you’re interrupting that natural process.
- Not asking for help: If you’re having trouble locating the right muscles or are unsure you’re doing Kegel exercises right, you should absolutely ask for help from a physical therapist. Especially if you’re recovering from surgery, childbirth or another trauma, it can be difficult to engage the right muscles. Most of us have to learn to correctly lift weights at the gym. This is no different. So don’t leave it to guesswork; seek help!
How to Do Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises (Kegel Exercises)
Step 1: Identify the Right Muscles
The first step is to know which muscles you’re exercising. Your abdomen, buttocks and legs should remain relaxed when you’re doing pelvic floor exercises.
One trick to help you locate the right muscles is to stop urinating mid-stream. The muscles you use to do this are your pelvic floor muscles. Become familiar with how these muscles feel when they contract and relax. (Important: You should not make a habit of stopping urinating in this manner, just do it once to help you understand the muscles that come into play).
Other tips for finding the right muscles:
- Imagine you’re tightening your vagina around a tampon.
- Insert a finger into your vagina, then contract your pelvic floor muscles around it. You should feel your vagina tighten and your pelvic floor move upward.
- Pretend you are trying to avoid passing gas.
If you’re still not sure you’ve located the correct muscles, don’t be embarrassed to ask your doctor for help. They may use vaginal weighted cones or biofeedback to help.
Step 2: Breathe and Repeat
Now that you have identified the right muscles, you can focus on your routine.
- Inhale through your nose. When you inhale, your pelvic floor will naturally relax.
- Now, contract your pelvic floor muscles as you start to exhale slowly.
- Hold the contraction for 3-6 seconds. You might feel the muscles start to tire.
- Relax for the same (or more) time you held your contraction. It’s important to relax between contractions.
- Repeat 10 times.
Step 3: Build Up Your Frequency
Like any workout, you’ll get stronger over time. You may find it difficult to reach 10 times initially, but you can build up to that.
Eventually you’ll want to do one set of 10 Kegels, two or three times a day. Space out the timing so you give yourself a chance to recover and don’t rush the exercises, especially at the beginning.
For continued benefits, make your Kegel exercises a permanent part of your daily routine.Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to do Kegels. But it’s also easy to forget! Set yourself a little reminder to do your 2-3 sets a day.