Kegel Exercises: Everything You Need to Know
Posted byErin Ollila
Kegels on a plane. Kegels on a train. Kegels in an automobile. It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving, sitting, standing, lying down or swimming, you can reap the benefits of kegel exercises, anytime, any place.
What are Kegel Exercises?
A kegel is an exercise that helps make your pelvic muscles stronger. Originally named after Arnold Kegel, the doctor who first described them, kegels have also been referenced in other terms, such as “pelvic training” or “pelvic floor muscle training.” The pelvic muscles support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Kegels control — and may even prevent — pelvic floor problems and urinary incontinence. Depending on the severity, a strong pelvic floor also helps with uterine prolapse, as well, giving you all the more reason to practice kegels, says the Mayo Clinic.1
Do You Need to Start Kegeling?
There are many circumstances that can weaken a person’s pelvic muscles, such as surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, excessive straining from constipation, chronic coughing, aging and even being overweight. Weak pelvic muscles may lead to issues such as incontinence or the inability to control the bladder or bowels. When a woman has weak pelvic muscles, her organs may shift. For example, the uterus may lower into a woman’s vagina in the case of a weak pelvic floor, causing incontinence, notes the Mayo Clinic.2
The Mayo Clinic suggests making kegels a part of your daily routine if:
- You notice that you leak drops of urine when coughing, sneezing or laughing.
- You notice that you leak stool.
- You notice a sudden urge to urinate followed by a strong flow of urine.2
It’s Time to Learn How to Kegel
The first step to kegeling is simply finding your pelvic floor muscles. Don’t worry — you don’t need a flashlight, mirror or any special tools. According to the Mayo Clinic, finding your pelvic floor muscles is as simple as stopping your stream mid flow the next time you urinate. Those muscles your body uses to stop the urine from leaving your body. Once you’ve successfully stopped the flow, relax your body and continue urinating.2
Congratulations! You just did your very first kegel.
Yes, it really is that simple. One word of caution: while it’s helpful to use your urine stream to learn how to do kegels, don’t continue this method in the future. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Doing Kegel exercises while emptying your bladder can actually lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder — which increases the risk of a urinary tract infection.”2
Now that you know how to move your pelvic floor muscles, it’s time to practice, and do so regularly. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should contract your muscles and hold for five seconds. Then, release for five seconds. Continue to do this four or five times, and you’ll have done your first set of five-second kegels.2 Once you’re feeling comfortable, work up to ten-second sets in the same method: contracting and then relaxing for the determined length of time. Make sure not to also tighten your stomach muscles, thighs or rear end when practicing. This method only requires the use of your pelvic methods. Also, remember not to hold your breath while contracting your muscles. Some people find kegels easiest to do while lying down in the beginning, but they can be done in any position and at any time. If possible, try to practice your kegels three times a day.
The Mayo Clinic reports “after six to 12 weeks of doing pelvic floor exercises correctly, you should notice improvement in your bladder and bowel control.”3
You jog, you lift weights, you do Pilates; why not give your pelvic muscles a workout too? With all these tips in mind, you can get to kegeling and reaping its many benefits!
1Mayo Clinic Website, October 7, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-prolapse/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20027708
2Mayo Clinic Website, September 25, 2015, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/kegel-exercises/art-20045283?pg=1
3Mayo Clinic on Managing Incontinence, Mayo Clinic Health Letter Online Edition, http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com/editorial/editorial.cfm/i/454/t/Pelvic%20floor%20exercises/
- Posted by Erin Ollila
- On March 23, 2017