Put simply, Kegels or Kegel exercises, are a great way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. And whether you are pregnant or not, male or female – you should be doing them.
These exercises were developed in the late 1940s by gynaecologist Dr. Arnold H. Kegel, as a simple way to prevent women from leaking urine. But they are also just as important for men.
Why you need to work your pelvic floor
The pelvic floor is made up of a group of muscles and connective tissue that provide support for the bladder, the uterus and the bowel. If the muscles are weakened, these organs are no longer fully supported and you may not be able to control your urine, faeces or wind.
Physiotherapist and expert in pelvic health, Heba Shaheed, says that the pelvic floor muscles are the powerhouse muscles of our body.
“The pelvic floor muscles important to help keep our bodies strong, leak-free and pain-free. They also make sex more pleasurable. But they can become weakened by things like pregnancy, childbirth, ageing and constipation.”
The impact of pregnancy and child birth
It’s no secret that pregnancy and childbirth can put a heavy strain on the pelvic floor. Heba Shaheed explains that during pregnancy and after birth the growing baby and uterus, combined with hormonal changes, creates pressure down on the pelvic floor.
“After birth, women may experience bladder or bowel leaks, back or pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse and abdominal separation. In fact, at least 1 in 3 women develop bladder or bowel control problems and leak with coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercise.”
“While leaking is common, it is not normal, and research shows doing your pelvic floor exercises is 84% successful in ending leaks,” said Heba.
Why everyone needs to do their Kegels
But it’s not just mums that need to work their pelvic floor. It’s also important for men and women of all ages to have strong pelvic floor muscles.
According the Continence Foundation of Australia pelvic floor muscles can be made weaker by growing older, surgery for bladder or bowel problems, constipation, being overweight, heavy lifting and even coughing that goes on for a long time–such as smoker’s cough, bronchitis or asthma.
Pelvic floor muscle training can help everyone to not only prevent weakness, but to treat problems with bladder and bowel control.
How to do a Kegel
Here’s your step by step guide to strengthening your pelvic floor:
- Find your pelvic floor: To find your pelvic floor muscles, imagine you are sitting on the toilet weeing, then imagine stopping the flow of the wee. The muscles that squeeze to stop the flow are your pelvic floor muscles. These are the same muscles we squeeze to stop us from passing wind.
- Choose your position: The best thing about these exercises is you can do them anytime and anywhere, but it might be easiest to start by lying on your back until you get hang of contracting the pelvic floor muscles.
- Contract and relax: Squeeze and lift your pelvic floor and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Relax for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat the action 10 times.
- Keep them up: These simple exercises are very important – so make Kegels part of your daily routine, and your pelvic floor will benefit for years to come.