Many people hear the words “Kegel exercises” and think it is some type of endurance or aerobics exercise. Close but no cigar. Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic floor muscle training, are done to strengthen the muscles of the lower abdomen and pelvis. These are the muscles that support the bladder, uterus, small intestine and rectum. Kegel exercises are recommended to help make the muscles of the bladder stronger so that you can control your urination. The dribbling can severely affect the quality of life. Some women perform Kegel exercises for more satisfying sex. Unlike other physical activity, Kegel exercises can be performed anytime and in any place. Both men and women can perform Kegel exercises.
In order to derive the benefits of Kegel exercise one must appreciate what the exercise can do. The exercise needs to be performed in a standard manner that involves contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles.
Why do muscles of the lower pelvis weaken?
There are many reasons why muscles of the lower pelvic floor weaken besides advancing age. These include the following:
- Excessive straining during a bowel movement or chronic coughing
- Multiple child births
- Surgery on the lower abdomen and pelvis
Females are more likely to develop weakening of the pelvic floor muscles than males.
Why does one need to perform Kegel exercises?
Kegel exercises may benefit people with the following health problems:
- Stress incontinence: when you laugh, sneeze or cough you may notice leakage of urine in your undergarments
- Urinary incontinence: you develop an intense urge to urinate and quickly empty your bladder before you reach the bathroom
- Leakage or soiling of undergarments with stool
How does one perform Kegel exercises?
One of the ways to help improve bladder control is to perform Kegel exercises. While “Kegel” may sound complex, the exercise is easy to perform. The first thing you need to know is which group of muscles to exercise. For both men and women, the easiest way to find the muscles involved in urination is by doing the following:
Go to the bathroom and start peeing; half way through urination try to slow or stop the urine flow. Do not stop the urine flow by holding your breath or tensing the muscles in your abdomen or buttocks. If you can slow down the flow of urine by using the muscle in the lower abdomen, then you have located the muscles that control urination.
Make sure your bladder is empty before starting Kegel exercise. When these muscles are exercised, you will feel a pulling sensation in your lower abdomen. While it is important not to contract other muscles, there is no real harm if you do.
To tighten the vaginal muscles, you may want to use vaginal weighted cones. The cone is inserted into the vagina and then you use your pelvic muscles to hold it in place for a few seconds. As the muscles get stronger, you can insert the cone and perform your regular daily living activities. This exercise strengthens the vaginal muscles and bring back muscle tone.
Once the muscles are identified you can perform Kegel exercises. Exercise the muscles 7-10 times for a few seconds in one session. Do the exercises 2-3 times a day. Most people find it easy to perform Kegel exercises while lying down. This way it is easier to contract the muscles and one does not have to fight against gravity. As you progress, increase the time of muscle contraction by a few seconds and do the exercises standing up.
When do I see the benefits of Kegel Exercise?
The benefits of Kegel exercises are not immediate. So one needs to be patient. In most cases, it takes 6-8 weeks to control the bladder. As you regain control of the bladder, you will note that the urine leaks start to decrease. If you see no improvement, it could be that you have not performed the Kegel exercises the right way or there may be another cause for the urine leak.
Kegel exercises are a much better option than use of medications or surgery to control urine leaks. This exercise can even be performed during pregnancy or in the post-partum period to prevent urinary incontinence. If you have problems learning how to perform the exercise, speak to your healthcare provider. Remember the benefits of Kegel exercises occur after some time, so be regular in your activity and pay attention to your progress.