What Are Kegel Exercises?
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
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.
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
You can also locate the muscles by trying to stop your urine
midflow. The muscles you use for this action are your pelvic floor muscles. Get
used to how they feel when they contract and relax.
However, you should use this method for learning purposes
only. It isn’t a good idea to start and stop your urine regularly, or to
frequently do Kegel exercises when you have a full bladder. Incomplete emptying
of the bladder can raise your risk for a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Talk with your gynecologist if you still aren’t sure you’ve
found the right muscles. They may recommend using an object called a vaginal cone. You insert a vaginal
cone into the vagina and then use your pelvic floor muscles to keep it in
Biofeedback training can
also be very useful in helping to identify and isolate your pelvic floor
muscles. In this procedure, a doctor will insert a small probe into your vagina
or put adhesive electrodes on the outside of your vagina or anus. You will be
asked to try to do a Kegel. A monitor will show whether you contracted the
correct muscles and how long you were able to hold the contraction.
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.
Biofeedback can also help men locate the pelvic floor
muscles. If you’re having trouble locating them on your own, you may want to
make an appointment with your doctor.
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.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see the results you want
immediately. According to the Mayo Clinic, Kegel exercises may take as long as a few
months to have an effect on urinary incontinence. They also work differently
for each person. Some people show great improvement in muscle control and
continence. Others show no real improvement. However, Kegels may prevent your
condition from getting worse.
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