Learning how to do kegels might seem strange at first, but this skill could save you a lot of embarrassment as you age — especially if you want to prevent urinary incontinence. If you've already had a few mortifying moments of "leaking" urine in your life, you're definitely not alone. It happens to many of us as we get older. But the good news is that kegels can help you find a solution to this problem even if it's already happened.
What are kegels?
Kegels, or kegel exercises, involve squeezing your pelvic floor muscles in order to make them stronger, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). As you can probably guess, the pelvic floor muscles are in your pelvic area, specifically at the very bottom of the pelvis, stretching between your legs. These muscles attach to the front, back, and the sides of the pelvic bone, and support your uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. they're also responsible for holding up your bladder — and keeping it from leaking. No wonder why we'd want to keep them strong!
As MedlinePlus puts it, an easy way to understand a kegel exercise is by imagining that you have to urinate and then "holding" it (even though there's no urination to actually hold). That's why it's so important for you to find the right muscles before you actually try kegels out for yourself. Luckily, this is pretty simple to do; the next time you need to urinate, start to go and then stop yourself. You'll definitely feel muscles tighten and move up. Once you've identified where they're at, you now have everything you need to do the exercise correctly. It's worth noting that you should keep other surrounding muscles in the area (including the abdomen and thigh muscles) as relaxed as possible while you're putting the pelvic floor muscles to work.
How to Do Kegels
- Be sure your bladder is empty, then either sit or lie down in a position that's comfortable for you.
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold that tightness, and count to eight.
- Relax those muscles and count to 10.
- Repeat 10 times, three times a day (in the morning, afternoon, and evening).
Important Reminders About Kegel Exercises
- Keep in mind that if you're already having incontinence, it probably won't disappear overnight after doing just one set of kegels. Experts say you can expect to feel better and have fewer symptoms after about four to six weeks of practicing these exercises. Consistency is key!
- If you're having difficulty finding the pelvic floor muscles on your own, don't be afraid to ask a medical professional for help. They can check and see if you're doing the exercises correctly, and they can also recommend an exercise aid, such as a special weight, if necessary.
- Don't overdo it. If you practice kegels with too much force, you can actually cause the muscles to tighten up too much, which can make intercourse painful.
- Remember that kegel exercises aren't the only thing you can do to get incontinence under control. According to Womenshealth.gov, doctors might also recommend dietary changes, weight loss, or quitting smoking for optimal results. Talk to your health practitioner about the best plan for you.