What is Kegel Exercise?
Kegel exercises are simple clench-and-release exercises that you can do to make the muscles of your pelvic floor stronger. Your pelvis is the area between your hips that holds your reproductive organs. The pelvic floor is really a series of muscles and tissues that forms a sling, or hammock, at the bottom of your pelvis. This sling holds your organs in place.
A weak pelvic floor may lead to issues such as the inability to control your bowels or bladder.
Once you understand Kegel exercises, you can do them anytime and anywhere — in the privacy of your own home or while waiting in line at the bank.
Why Do Kegel Exercises?
Both women and men can benefit from Kegel exercises.
Many factors can weaken the pelvic floor in women, such as pregnancy, childbirth, aging, and weight gain. The pelvic floor muscles support the womb, the bladder, and the bowels. If the muscles are weak, these pelvic organs may lower into a woman’s vagina. Besides being extremely uncomfortable, this can also cause urinary incontinence.
Men may also experience weakening in the muscles of their pelvic floor as they age. This can lead to incontinence of both urine and feces, especially if the man has had prostate surgery.
Kegel exercises for women
Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. You can do Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic floor muscle training, just about any time.
Start by understanding what Kegel exercises can do for you then follow step-by-step instructions for contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles.
Kegel exercises for men
Kegel exercises for men can help improve bladder control and possibly improve sexual performance. Here’s a guide to doing Kegel exercises correctly.
Kegel exercises for men can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder and bowel and affect sexual function. With practice, Kegel exercises for men can be done just about any time.
Before you start doing Kegel exercises, find out how to locate the correct muscles and understand the proper technique.
Finding the Pelvic Floor Muscles in Women
When you are first starting Kegel exercises, finding the right set of muscles can be tricky. One way to find them is by placing a clean finger inside your vagina and tightening your vaginal muscles around your finger.
You can also locate the muscles by trying to stop your urine mid-flow. The muscles you use for this action are your pelvic floor muscles. Get used to how they feel when they contract and relax.
Finding the Pelvic Floor Muscles in Men
Men often have the same kind of trouble when it comes to identifying the correct group of pelvic floor muscles. For men, one way to find them is to insert a finger into the rectum and try to squeeze it — without tightening the muscles of the abdomen, buttocks, or thighs.
Another helpful trick is to tense the muscles that keep you from passing gas.
If you’re still having trouble, practice stopping the flow of urine. As with women, this is a reliable way to locate the pelvic floor muscles, but it shouldn’t become a regular practice.
Benefits of Kegel exercises for men
Many factors can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, including the surgical removal of the prostate (radical prostatectomy) and conditions, such as diabetes and an overactive bladder.
You might benefit from doing Kegel exercises if you:
- Have urinary or fecal incontinence
- Dribble after urination — usually after you’ve left the toilet
How to do Kegel exercises for men
To get started:
- Find the right muscles.To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream or tighten the muscles that keep you from passing gas. These maneuvers use your pelvic floor muscles. Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles, you can do the exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first.
- Perfect your technique.Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for three seconds, and then relax for three seconds. Try it a few times in a row. When your muscles get stronger, try doing Kegel exercises while sitting, standing or walking.
- Maintain your focus.For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.
- Repeat 3 times a day.Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.
Don’t make a habit of using Kegel exercises to start and stop your urine stream. Some doctors think this could cause a bladder infection.
When to do your Kegels
Make Kegel exercises part of your daily routine. For example:
- Fit in a set of Kegel exercises every time you do a routine task, such as brushing your teeth.
- Do another set after you urinate, to get rid of the last few drops of urine.
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles just before and during any activity that puts pressure on your abdomen, such as sneezing, coughing, laughing or heavy lifting.
When you’re having trouble
If you’re having trouble doing Kegel exercises, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Your doctor or other health care provider can give you important feedback so that you learn to isolate and strengthen the correct muscles.
In some cases, biofeedback training might help. In a biofeedback session, your doctor or other health care provider inserts a small probe into your rectum. As you relax and contract your pelvic floor muscles, a monitor will measure and display your pelvic floor activity. Research suggests that biofeedback training is more effective in treating fecal incontinence.
When to expect results
If you do your Kegel exercises regularly, you can expect results — such as less frequent urine leakage — within about a few weeks to a few months. For continued benefits, make Kegel exercises a permanent part of your daily routine.
Goals and Benefits of Kegel Exercises
Always empty your bladder before doing Kegel exercises. As a beginner, you should find a quiet, private place to sit or to lie down before doing your exercises. As you practice, you’ll find you can do them anywhere.
When you first start doing Kegel exercises, tense the muscles in your pelvic floor for a count of three, then relax them for a count of three. Keep going until you have done 10 repetitions. Over the next several days, practice until you can hold your muscles tense for a count of 10. Your goal should be to do three sets of 10 repetitions every day.
If you feel pain in your abdomen or back after a Kegel exercise session, it’s a sign that you’re not doing them correctly. Always remember that, even as you contract your pelvic floor muscles, the muscles in your abdomen, back, buttocks, and sides should remain loose.
Finally, don’t overdo your Kegel exercises. If you work the muscles too hard, they’ll become tired and unable to fulfill their necessary functions.