Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. These muscles support the bladder, uterus, small intestine, and rectum. Kegel exercises, also called pelvic floor muscle training, can be undertaken at almost any time.
Why Kegel Exercises Matter
Various factors can weaken pelvic floor muscles, such as surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, aging, excessive straining from chronic coughing or constipation, and being overweight.
Women should perform Kegel exercises if they:
- Leak a few drops of urine while laughing, sneezing, or coughing (stress incontinence)
- Have strong, sudden urge to urinate before expelling a substantial amount of urine (urinary urge incontinence)
- Leak stool (fecal incontinence)
- Kegel exercises can also be performed during pregnancy or after childbirth to improve the symptoms
Kegel exercises are not as effective for women with severe urine leakage when they cough, laugh, or sneeze. These exercises are also not helpful for women who unexpectedly leak small quantities of urine due to a full bladder (overflow incontinence).
How to do Kegel Exercises
To perform Kegel exercises:
- Identify the correct muscles. To find your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. Upon identifying your pelvic floor muscles, you can perform the exercises in any position. It may initially be easier to perform them lying down.
- Perfect the technique by imagining that you are sitting on a marble and tighten your pelvic muscles as if you are lifting the marble. Perform it for three seconds at a time and then relax for a count of three.
- Stay focused. For best outcomes, emphasize on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. However, be careful not to flex the muscles in your thighs, buttocks, or abdomen. Do not hold your breath. Rather, breathe freely while performing the exercises.
- Repeat thrice daily. Aim to perform at least three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions per day.
- Do not make a habit of using Kegel exercises to initiate and stop your urine stream. Performing Kegel exercises while urinating can actually lead to incomplete bladder emptying, and this increases the risk of developing a urinary tract infection.
When to do your Kegels
It is a good idea to make Kegel exercises a part of the daily routine. These exercises can be discreetly undertaken about any time, irrespective of whether you are relaxing on the couch or sitting at your desk.
When you are having Trouble
Do not be embarrassed to ask for help if you are having trouble performing Kegel exercises. Your physician or another medical care provider can offer you vital feedback to enable you to learn to isolate and exercise the right muscles.
At times, biofeedback or vaginal weighted cones may help. In a biofeedback session, your doctor or other medical provider inserts a pressure sensor into your rectum and vagina. A monitor will measure and display your pelvic floor activity as you relax and contract your pelvic muscles.
When to expect Results
Upon performing Kegel exercises routinely, you can expect outcomes, such as less frequent urine leakage, with nearly a few weeks to a few months. To enjoy permanent benefits, make Kegel exercises a permanent part of your exercise routine.
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