For both men and women, pelvic floor exercises (or Kegel exercises) help strengthen or maintain their pelvic floor muscles — which are important for both bladder (urine) and bowel (feces) control.
These exercises are also beneficial for a woman’s sexual health. Strong pelvic floor muscles improve blood flow to the area, which helps keep your vagina healthy and moist.
Who should do pelvic floor exercises?
Men and women who:
- Leak urine or feces — like when you laugh or cough, run or are lifting something
- Are over 40 — as we age, our muscles get weaker
- Have started menopause — either naturally or due to cancer treatment
- Have been pregnant — carrying a child in your womb can stretch and weaken your pelvic floor, and a vaginal birth can stretch, tear and weaken muscles
How to do them?
Before you can perform Kegels or pelvic floor exercises correctly, you need to “find” or isolate your pelvic floor muscles. The easiest way to do that is to stop the flow of urine midstream while peeing. The muscles that tighten and allow you to do this are your pelvic floor muscles.
But don’t continue to exercise your pelvic floor muscles while urinating. Doing so may cause problems emptying your bladder.
Here’s how to do them right:
- Empty your bladder. You can lie down or sit comfortably, but standing is okay too.
- Keep your inner thighs, belly and buttocks relaxed.
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles by squeezing the rectal area. Women, squeeze your vagina too. (Men: Your penis may feel like it’s being pulled in slightly.)
- Hold for 5-10 seconds.
- Release for 10 seconds.
- Do 5 repetitions and increase to 10 when that’s too easy.
- Aim to do your Kegels 3-5 times a day.
You can do them just about anywhere, anytime, for example when:
- Lying in bed
- Waiting for the bus or train — or while riding in one
- Watching TV or streaming a movie
- Waiting in line at the store
- Going through your email
- Doing the dishes
But like all exercise, you don’t want to overdo it. If you do, your pelvic floor muscles may fatigue so much that leaking is actually increased.