Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles under the uterus, bladder, and bowel (large intestine). At the bottom of your pelvis are layers of muscles known as your pelvic floor. They are shaped like a hammock and connect to the front, back, and sides of your pelvic bone. Your pelvic muscles support the bladder, rectum, and sexual organs. They hold them in place and help control the flow of urine.
For women, pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the pelvic muscles. For men, prostate surgery can weaken the pelvic muscles. Your risk also increases as you age and if you are overweight. Brain and nerve disorders can also lead to problems with urine leakage or bowel control.
Weak pelvic muscles can cause you to leak urine. Luckily, Kegel exercises can strengthen your pelvic muscles and help you regain bladder control.
Path to improved wellness
You can do Kegel exercises almost anywhere, at any time. People can’t see you do them. That’s because it involves tightening and releasing the muscles in your pelvis. It is easiest to start off doing them as you are lying down. As they become easier, you can do them while driving, working, or watching TV.
Before you start the exercises, you’ll need to locate your pelvic muscles. They are the same muscles you use to stop urine flow or hold in gas. To exercise, pull in (contract) or squeeze your pelvic muscles. Hold this for 3 to 5 seconds, then release and rest for 3 to 5 seconds. As you continue, you can increase the amount of time you hold and rest up to 10 seconds. Do 10 to 20 exercises 3 times per day. If you are doing the exercises correctly, the muscles in your thighs, bottom and stomach should remain relaxed.
You may not notice change in your muscles right away. As with other muscles in your body, it can take 4 to 8 weeks of daily exercise. Keep a log of your exercises to track your progress.
Things to consider
If you struggle with incontinence, try contracting your muscles after going to the bathroom. This can help ensure you have gotten all the urine out. Be careful though. Doing Kegel exercises mid-urination can cause a bladder infection.
You also should tighten your muscles before certain movements. This includes sneezing, coughing, laughing, jumping, or lifting a heavy object. The contraction can prevent pelvic muscle damage and urine leakage.
Talk to your doctor about Kegel exercises. They can help make sure you are doing them correctly. Keep them informed of your progress or if your problem isn’t improving. You may need another form of treatment, such as pelvic floor physical therapy or surgery.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Is a weak pelvic floor associated with other health issues?
- What does it mean to contract or tighten my pelvic floor muscles?
- Should Kegel exercises be painful?
- Will I always have to do Kegel exercises?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.