What Are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises are exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. You might also hear them called pelvic floor exercises. They affect the muscles that support your uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. Kegels don’t just help keep them fit, they can help you avoid bladder leaks and passing gas or stool by accident. They can even improve your orgasms.
Benefits of Kegel Exercise
When they’re working like they should, your pelvic floor muscles may never cross your mind. But as you age, they can start to weaken. This puts you at risk for a condition doctors call pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Basically, your pelvic organs start to droop. They can fall into or out of your vagina. If you’ve had a hysterectomy, your vaginal tissues can start to come out of your body.
Other things that put you at risk for POP include:
- Giving birth through the vagina
- Surgery in the pelvic area (C-section or hysterectomy)
- Frequent coughing, laughing, or sneezing (it pushes on the pelvic organs)
Kegel exercises aren’t just for women. They can strengthen men’s pelvic floor muscles, too. These muscles support your bladder and bowel and affect sexual function. Kegels can help if you have trouble with bladder or bowel incontinence, or if you dribble after you pee. They can make sex better by giving you more feeling during an orgasm and greater control over ejaculation.
How to Do Kegel Exercises
Try to pee. Once urine starts to flow, squeeze your muscles to hold it in. You should feel the muscles lift. Another way is to squeeze the muscles that stop you from passing gas. You just did one Kegel. Relax the muscle and do it again.
Don’t get into the habit of doing Kegels while you pee, though. This can cause other problems, like urinary tract infections.
Start slowly. Try squeezing your pelvic floor muscles for 3 seconds, then release for 3 seconds. Do this 10 times in a row. That’s one set. If you can’t do 10, do as many as you can and build up over time. Try to work up to one set of 10 Kegels two to three times a day.
Kegels aren’t harmful. In fact, you can make them a part of your daily routine. Do them while you’re brushing your teeth, driving to work, eating dinner, or watching TV.
When to See Your Doctor
Ask for help if you’re having trouble doing Kegels. The doctor can give you tips on how to do them the right way. There are also tools that can help, like:
- Vaginal cones. Women can insert these weights into the vagina and hold in place with pelvic muscle contractions.
- Biofeedback. For both men and women, your doctor will insert a pressure sensor into the rectum or vagina. As you squeeze and relax your pelvic floor muscles, a monitor measures activity.
Kegel Exercise Results
Most women who do Kegels regularly see results, like fewer urine leaks, within a few weeks or months. If you’re still concerned about a prolapse or don’t feel your symptoms are getting better, talk to your doctor about other treatments.
Kegels are safe, but it’s still important to be careful. Here’s what to watch out for:
- Don’t do Kegels while you pee. The idea is to tighten your muscles like you’re trying to stop peeing, but not to actually do it. There’s a chance that you could get a urinary tract infection (UTI).
- Don’t overdo it. This could lead to straining when you use the bathroom.
- Exercise regularly. Just like with other types of exercise, Kegels take practice to get stronger. You’ll need to do them every day for at least 15 weeks. Talk to your doctor about any changes to your routine.
Kegels aren’t for everyone. If your pelvic floor muscles are always tight, these exercises can do more harm than good. If you try to contract muscles that are already tired, they won’t be able to respond. Your doctor can help you figure out if this applies to you.