Why You Should Do Kegel Exercises

Published on: 14/05/2021

Learn why it’s beneficial to keep your pelvic muscles strong through regular Kegel exercises.

Considered one of the five best exercises you can ever do by Harvard Health Publishing, Kegel exercises may not help you look better, but they strengthen muscles that are necessary for our everyday function and overall health. 

 

What are Kegel Exercises?

Also known as pelvic-floor exercises, Kegel exercises are exercises intended to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which are also colloquially referred to as the "Kegel muscles". Put simply, these are simple clench-and-release exercises that improve the muscle tone of the pelvic floor.

It was American gynecologist Arnold Henry Kegel who first published a description of such exercises in 1948, after having developed them as a nonsurgical way to prevent incontinence in women. He was also known for the invention of the Kegel perineometer — an instrument that can measure the strength of pelvic floor muscle contractions.

Because of their benefits, many women are already familiar with Kegel exercises. Nonetheless, they can also be helpful for men who are plagued by incontinence.

 

Why Should You Do Kegel Exercises?

As we age, the pelvic floor muscles can start to weaken. However, many other factors can also lead to this weakening of the Kegel muscles such as pregnancy and childbirth, surgery, genetics, and even chronic coughing, sneezing, or laughing (the excessive straining can push on your pelvic organs). 

Think of your pelvic floor as a series of muscles and tissues that forms a hammock at the bottom of your pelvis, holding your organs in place. If the pelvic floor muscles become weak, it may lead to serious issues such as the inability to control your bowels or bladder. 

Even further, you may be at risk for a condition called pelvic organ prolapse, wherein one or more of the organs in the pelvis slip down, and you feel a dragging discomfort around your lower belly and genitals.

According to Mayo Clinic, Kegel exercises are helpful if you experience: 

  • Stress incontinence - wherein you involuntarily leak a few drops of urine as you cough, sneeze, or laugh)
  • Urinary urge incontinence- wherein you feel a sudden urge to urinate just moments before losing a large amount of urine
  • Fecal incontinence - wherein you leak stool

Kegel exercises are also beneficial for men who’ve undergone radical prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate) and who suffer from conditions such as an overactive bladder and diabetes. 

 

How to Do Kegel Exercises

First, it’s important to find the right muscles. 

  • For women - Try to stop your urination in midstream. Observe the feeling when you contract and relax these muscles. 
  • For men -  You can also practice stopping the flow of urine, or try tensing the muscles that keep you from passing gas.

Once you’ve identified your Kegel muscles, contract them for three to five seconds, and then relax the pelvic floor muscles for another three to five seconds. Repeat this cycle 10 times.

Remember to keep your other muscles (such as your abdominal, leg, or buttock) relaxed. To avoid lifting your pelvis, place one hand on your belly. Try extending the time by working your way up to 10 seconds, and repeating the cycle up to 40 times. 

Since no one would notice you doing these exercises, you can sneak in a few of them whenever you wish, such as when standing in a grocery line, or waiting for your turn at the bank. 

 

Exercise with Caution

If you feel pain in your abdomen or back when doing your Kegel exercises, you might be doing them incorrectly. Keep in mind that while contracting your pelvic floor muscles, the muscles in your back, sides, abdomen, and buttocks should remain relaxed. 

Make sure also, that you don’t overwork your Kegel muscles, because they too can become tired and may not be able to function properly over time.