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Kegel Exercises: What They Are and How to Do Them

Kegel exercises—we hear about them all the time, but what are they exactly? Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles which in turn provides added support to the rectum, small intestine, bladder, and uterus.

Kegel
By Gend27 (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The benefits of Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises holds many benefits. Pregnant women can benefit by increasing control over muscle groups that are vital to labor and delivery. Furthermore, Kegel exercises help to decrease the development of hemorrhoids while also aiding in bladder control.
An added bonus of Kegel exercises is an increase in performance in the bedroom. Stronger pelvic floor muscles allow for more powerful contractions which can lead to more enjoyable orgasms.

Urinary Incontinence

Kegel exercises are the most natural and effective way to control urinary incontinence (UI). No matter your age, men and women alike who suffer from this issue can benefit from engaging in Kegel exercises on a regular basis. Those who suffer from urinary incontinence typically have weak pelvic floor muscles. Kegel exercises increase the strength of these muscles which in turn improves this condition.

You would benefit from Kegel exercises if you experience any of the following:

  • A sudden, strong urge to urinate before losing a large of amount of urine
  • Leaking when coughing, laughing or sneezing
  • Stool leakage

Be mindful that Kegel exercises are typically less effective for women who experience severe urine leakage when they laugh, sneeze or cough. Kegel exercises are also less effective for women who leak in small amounts due to a full bladder.

Performing Kegel exercises

Identify the correct muscles

Before you can start Kegel exercises, you must identify where the proper muscles are located. The best way to identify these muscles is to stop yourself from urinating midstream. If you were able to stop the stream, you’ve found your pelvic floor muscles.

Now that you’ve identified the proper muscles, you can now begin the exercises. The beauty of Kegel exercises is that they can be performed anywhere, anytime without anyone knowing that you’re doing them. If you’re a beginner, it’s recommended that you start by lying down, though you can perform the exercises in any position.

Practice your technique
First, tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold it for at least five seconds, and then stop to relax for five minutes. Repeat this exercise at least four to five minutes in a row.

Kegel and Exercise
Image Credit: lograstudio / Pixabay

It may take some time, but it should be your goal to keep your muscles in a contracted state for 10 seconds before stopping to rest. Thus, your end goal should be 10 seconds of contraction followed by 10 seconds of rest, rinse and repeat.

Maintain your focus
Focus is key. Clear your mind of everything around you and focus singularly on tightening your pelvic floor muscles. Beware of flexing your buttocks, thighs or abdomen. Those aren’t the muscles you’re specifically targeting for Kegel exercises. Also, don’t hold your breath during the exercise, as you may feel a natural tendency to do so while flexing. Instead, breath openly and freely.

Repetitions
The minimum number of repetitions you should do on a daily basis is three sets of 10. As stated, this should be the minimum amount of daily repetitions, but of course, as you build stamina, you can do more and more.

A word of warning—repeatedly engaging in Kegel exercises while urinating is highly discouraged. Interrupting your urine flow can actually stop you from completely emptying out your bladder which could very well lead to a urinary tract infection.

The best time to do Kegel exercises

The beauty of Kegel exercises is that they can be done whenever you’re ready, no matter where you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the doctor’s office, bus stop, grocery store or the library. When you’re ready to start the exercises, you can proceed without issues.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Kegel exercises are pretty straightforward, but you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for assistance if problems should arise. Consult with your doctor if you need assistance identifying the proper muscles. There are also countless resources online that can be found on Google and YouTube that can easily assist you with your Kegel exercises.

Females can use weighted vaginal cones to get feedback while doing Kegel exercises. Simply insert the cone into the vagina and hold it in place with your pelvic muscle contractions during your repetitions.

You can also engage in biofeedback in which your doctor or specialist inserts a pressure sensor into the rectum or vagina. Once you begin your pelvic floor contractions, a monitor will display information that you and your doctor can discuss.

Be patient

Remember that you’re not in a race. There’s a very good chance that you won’t see results right away, so don’t worry if you’re still dealing with urinary incontinence as you engage in your repetitions day by day. If you stick with the exercises, you should see results—less urine leakage—a few weeks to a few months in.

Even if you don’t see results within a few months continue your Kegel exercises on a daily basis. You should do it often enough that it becomes a regular part of your life. Given enough time and dedication (remember that each case is different) you’ll eventually see results.