Urinary Incontinence: Kegel Exercises for Pelvic Muscles

Medically Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on January 06, 2023
3 min read

Kegel exercises are one of the best natural ways to control urinary incontinence.

These simple moves can help many women and men, regardless of your age or what's causing your problem. They strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which support your bladder. When these muscles are weak, you're more likely to have leaks.

Here's what you need to know:

Who benefits from Kegels? Anyone, at any age, who suffers urinary incontinence or leaks urine. While the exercise mainly helps those with stress urinary incontinence, it can also work if you have urge incontinence from overactive bladder. This causes a sudden urge to pee. You might not always make it to the bathroom. Men can do Kegel exercises to control urinary incontinence that can happen after prostate surgery.

How do you do them? Pretend you're trying to stop the flow of pee. Pull in and squeeze those muscles. Hold the squeeze for about 10 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Try for three or four sets of 10 contractions every day.

How do Kegels help? They strengthen the muscles that help control the urethra. When these muscles are weak, you can't control the flow as well.

When will I see results? It takes time to build your biceps, so it takes time to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, too. Give it 3 to 6 weeks. Do them daily.

When and where should I do them? The beauty of Kegels is that you can really do them just about anywhere, anytime. No one will know unless you tell them. Try a few sets in your car, at your desk, or while you watch TV. To be sure you have it right, ask your doctor or the nurse to describe the proper form. They can also check that you are doing them correctly.

Do I need any equipment? Not for Kegels alone. Doctors may suggest that women use a weighted cone or even small weights. You'll insert it into your vagina and do your Kegels with it there. You'll slowly increase the weight. Some doctors pair Kegels with biofeedback, a monitoring system that helps you with bodily functions like urine control.  Vaginal weights are another option. The small weights are inserted into the vagina and your pelvic muscles contract to hold them in while you are standing. They should be used about 15 minutes a day, twice a day. A non-invasive device - pants with electrical pads - work to stimulate the muscles of the pelvic floor and re-educate them to help control bladder leakage. Another FDA approved method includes a coin-sized device called a tibial neurostimulator that can be implanted in the lower leg and reduce urinary incontinence symptoms. Just like therapy for a weak/injured shoulder there are specialists dedicated to helping with pelvic floor weakness and dysfunction, so pelvic floor physical therapy is an option. 

Are there other benefits to Kegels? Yes. They can also help you out in the bedroom. When your pelvic floor muscles are in shape, they'll contract more strongly during an orgasm.