Kegel exercise is performed to strengthen and tone pelvic floor muscles. These are the internal muscles that are difficult to train by doing just regular pull-ups or weight training. Since these muscles control the movement of the bladder as well as bowel (too some an extent), exercising these muscles plays a vital role in the quality of life. It can be done by anybody at any age. Particularly it is more important for people who are pregnant or having incontinence issues. It is good for people who experience a few drops of leaking of urine while sneezing, laughing, or coughing, etc. Regardless of gender, this exercise is helpful in the treatment of urinary as well as fecal incontinence.
Importance of Kegel Exercise:
As I just mentioned, Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and rectum compromises pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are like a small round trampoline, with the ability to stretch front to back and side to side. Along with some neurological control and action, the pelvic floor muscles provide you the control over the bladder as well as the bowel.
With constant use or in some conditions, these muscles become weak causing leakage of urine or stool with certain movements (typically, the movements that increase intra-abdominal pressure like intense exercises, heavy lifting, coughing, laughing etc). The kegel exercises work to strengthen these muscles. With Kegel exercises and necessary lifestyle changes, a person can regain bladder and bowel control. This depends on the severity of the muscles impacted as well as the underlying cause. What I mean is, kegel exercises will not treat neurogenic bladder or impaired sensation to name a few. It is strictly the muscle imbalance issues that we are discussing here and trying to fix with Kegel Exercises.
When to perform Kegel Exercise:
These exercises are very easy to do and can be done anywhere, any time, in any position. No one else needs to know that you are doing your homework while watching TV or cooking meals. By saying that, it is important that you perform this exercise correctly and work on the right muscles. It is a good idea to start by lying on your back initially until you get comfortable with the contraction. Once you get hang of it, you can perform these exercises in any position, and any time.
Here are some major indications for kegel exercise:
- Urinary incontinence
- Bowel incontinence
- Enhances Sexual performance
- Prevents erectile dysfunction
- Improves prostate health
- Since leaking of urine affects a person psychologically, it has an indirect benefit on a person’s mental and social well being.
Who can Perform Kegel Exercise:
Since pregnancy is the major life-changing event with many women getting affected by urinary incontinence, Kegel exercises are well known to be an exercise for pregnant women. Since it strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, which is where a woman carries a baby, it does help a pregnant woman in many ways than just helping with incontinence. So it kind of makes sense when people directly relate this exercise to pregnancy!
The truth is though, this is a lifesaver not only for expected women but all women and men in general. This is the best way to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. Yes, you read that right. Men can and actually should perform Kegel Exercise. It is proven to improve men’s overall health.
How to perform Kegel Exercises:
In order to perform these exercises, you need to contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold that contraction. The best way to describe pelvic floor contraction is, to either trying to stop your urine stream while urinating or trying to stop passing gas. Feel that contraction and hold that for 3 to 5 seconds without holding your breath.
You can start with 10 repetitions, three times a day withhold of each contraction for 3 to 5 seconds or how long you can hold. Gradually, work your way up to holding a contraction to 10 to 15 seconds. As you advance in your pregnancy, it is ok to just start a timer for 2 minutes initially and work your way up to 5 minutes. Also, if you feel pain, or soreness while doing this or after doing this exercise, please stop performing this exercise and consult your doctor.
Be careful of not holding your breath, or using other nearby muscles like gluts or abdomen. Once you get hang of it, you should be able to perform it in any position.
Controversy for Kegel Exercises:
There are some arguments in medical society about whether Kegel exercises actually work or not. Majority of scientific research supports the use of Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles for both genders, at any time of your life. The benefits of kegel exercises are many.
However, there are times that people only rely on kegel exercises which can create a muscle imbalance between the pelvic floor and hips/glutes. To avoid that, it is important to work on glutes as well.