Everyone who indulges in some form of exercise or the other can tell you that being active regularly helps keep you fit and feeling confident. But did you know that there’s a whole class of exercises that are very important for your health, even though they won't make you look any different on the outside? We’re referring to pelvic floor muscle (PFM) exercises, which include the most popular type known as Kegel exercise.A study published in the Medical Science Monitor in 2013 describes how PFM exercises are quite effective in strengthening the muscles around the vagina, rectum and urethra. Therefore, these exercises can help prevent urinary incontinence. The study also mentions how it can improve sexual function in women. Kegel exercise was developed by Dr Arnold H. Kegel in the 1940s as a non-surgical way to reduce incontinence in women and is also effective for men with incontinence and prostate surgery recovery. The best part about Kegels is that you can do them anytime and anywhere without anyone ever coming to know that you’re doing them.
How to find the pelvic floor muscles
The key behind doing PFM exercises is to find them in the first place - after all, these muscles aren’t visible to the eye like quads and triceps are. A simple identifying method would be to try this when you next urinate: Start peeing, and then stop yourself. The muscles in your vagina (for women), bladder and anus that get activated when you do this are the PFMs. If you’re still unsure about which muscles these are, try the following.
- Women: Wash your hands and insert a finger gently into your vagina. Tighten the area like you would when you hold your pee and then relax. If you repeat several times, you’ll feel the muscles around your finger tighten as well as move up and down.
- Men: Wash your hands and insert a finger gently into your rectum. Tighten the muscles around like you would when you’re trying to hold urine or avoid passing gas. You’ll feel the muscles tighten and move up and down.
How to do Kegel exercises
Simply put, Kegel exercise feels like holding your pee in when you really have to go (which is something you really shouldn’t do). The following are the steps to do Kegel exercise.
- Empty your bladder and sit or stand or lie down.
- Tighten your PFMs and hold this position for three to five seconds.
- Relax the PFMs for three to five seconds.
- Repeat 10 times thrice a day.
Thing to remember
Yes, doing Kegels is just that easy. If you do these exercises right then you might even start to see the difference in four to six weeks. But there are a few things you must keep in mind too:
- Tighten only the PFMs while doing Kegels, not your stomach, thigh, buttock or chest muscles.
- Don’t overdo Kegels, because this can make you strain when you urinate if the muscles become stiff. For women, this can injure vaginal muscles and lead to pain during sex.
- Don’t practice Kegels while urinating or hold your pee in general because it causes PFM weakness and damage to the bladder and kidneys.
- If you already have incontinence, it might take months of Kegel exercises to show any improvement.