Being active is one of the most direct and effective ways to stay healthy. Any movement that requires you to work your muscles and burn some calories definitely has health benefits - both mentally and physically. Exercising can help you feel happier, aid with weight loss, improve your muscle and bones, increase your energy levels, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, help improve skin health as well as your health and memory. Also, exercising helps with relaxation and sleep quality, reduces pain and promotes a better sex life .
Basically, exercising can help you from top to bottom, improving early every aspect of your health from the inside out. Apart from the basic forms of physical activities, there are various types of exercise methods that have been developed with specific purposes. And right now, we will be looking into one such exercise, called as the Kegel exercise.
What Are Kegel Exercises?
Also called pelvic floor exercises, Kegel exercises are done with the aim of strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor. They are asserted to be one of the most effective ways to improve your bladder and bowel movements. Kegel exercises are not complex but simple and easy clench-and-release exercises for making your pelvic floor stronger . The pelvic floor is a bunch of tissues and muscles, located at the bottom of your pelvis and holds your organs in place. Therefore, a weak pelvic floor can result in the development of an inability to control the bladder and bowels .
Kegel exercises can be done by both men and women. They are not only done to keep your pelvic muscles fit but also to avoid embarrassing accidents, like bladder leakage and passing gas and or even stool by accident. Due to the simplicity of the exercises, they can be done at any time and anywhere. You can do it multiple times a day (every day), for several minutes. Doing the exercise can have an effect on your body (pelvic muscles) within the first three months .
This type of exercise is highly recommended for pregnant women as it aids them in preparing their body for the physiological stresses of the later stages of pregnancy as well as childbirth. Various tools are used for carrying out the exercises such as jade eggs, Ben Wa balls, pelvic toning devices etc. However, studies are still going on to analyse the differences in using Kegel exercise devices and not using the devices .
In women, Kegel exercises are asserted to be effective in treating vaginal prolapse and preventing uterine prolapse. And in men, they are effective for treating prostate pain and swelling resulting from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis. For both men and women, they can help in treating urinary incontinence .
Kegel Exercises For Women
You can benefit from the Kegel exercise if you have stress incontinence (few drops of urine while sneezing, laughing or coughing), urinary urge incontinence (strong, sudden urge to urinate just before losing a large amount of urine) and faecal incontinence (leak stool) .
I. Benefits of Kegel exercises for women
The benefits of this exercise are plenty. For example, they are said to have the ability to increase sexual gratification in women. The other benefits of carrying out Kegel exercises are as follows , , .
1. Treats bladder leakage
The bladder, rectum and muscles are supported by the pelvic floor muscles. If your pelvic floor muscles are weak, it can cause your bladder and bladder neck to have less support around the sphincter. The lack of support causes stress urinary incontinence where you will face bladder leakage with strenuous movements. This can happen when you do exercises, lifting heavy objects, or while sneezing, coughing or laughing. Kegels can improve this condition as they helps to tighten and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
2. Reduces pelvic organ prolapse (POP)
POP is a condition that develops when the pelvic organs press into the walls of the vagina, in the event of pregnancy and childbirth, as it stretches and weakens the pelvic floor muscles. A woman can develop POP from being overweight, prolonged heavy lifting, and even from constipation and heavy coughing. This condition is not life-threatening but however can cause pain and fear of being in public places, it can hinder an active social lifestyle.
Studies reveal that about 50 per cent of women who have given birth will suffer from POP, and also asserts that age (50 years and older) is a prime factor determining the development of the condition. Kegel exercise helps by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles for better support of the pelvic organs and reduction of prolapse. Kegels can cure low levels of POP completely and moderate levels of POP can be reduced and controlled to an extent so that it does not affect your daily life.
3. Improves back and hip support
As a lack of strength in your pelvic floor muscles can affect your joints of the pelvis, tailbone, and lower spine, it results in causing severe back pain and reduced hip strength. The kegel exercises ease the pain in your joints and lower back by supporting and strengthening the muscles.
4. Help recover from childbirth
Whether it is caesarean or vaginal, childbirth will cause your pelvic floor muscles to become weak. Kegel exercises improve the healing of the muscles and help rebuild their strength. You can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles prior to getting pregnant and while you are pregnant.
*Caution: It is important to discuss your exercise program with your healthcare provider if you are pregnant. And only do the exercise if you are not experiencing contractions of the uterus .
5. Aids during menopause
The exercise can help manage your pelvic health during menopause. The fluctuations of oestrogen levels during menopause can lead to less blood flow and reduce the strength of the pelvic floor muscles. Kegel can help by squeezing out the old blood and pulling in fresh blood, thereby aiding in strengthening the muscles.
6. Improves overall fitness
Certain lifestyle and habits can have a negative impact on your health. Prolonged sitting, injuries and alike can cause muscle weakness, for example, pregnancy can weaken your core as it stretches your abdominal muscles. Also, you are prone to gain a few extra pounds due to the busy lifestyle and lack of regular exercise. Kegel exercises improve, tone and maintain your muscles - especially your pelvic muscles, thereby reducing the risk of incontinence or a pelvic organ prolapse .
7. Improves sex life
Kegel exercises are extremely effective in improving one's sex life. They help to tighten the vagina and may help improve the intensity of the orgasm. As the pelvic floor muscles play a major role in reaching an orgasm, the exercise can be beneficial as it strengthens the muscles; allowing for easy contractions. A weak pelvic floor muscle aligns with an inability to reach an orgasm. Exercising your pelvic muscles can improve your blood flow to the pelvic region which in turn improves sexual arousal, lubrication, and the ability to orgasm.
II. How to do Kegel exercises for women
- Find the muscles: The first step is to find the right muscles. To do that, stop your urination flow mid-stream - this will help you in recognising the pelvic floor muscles. Once you have identified the right muscle, you may begin the clench-and-release movement. It is easiest to be done when you are lying down .
- Build your technique: It is best to perform the exercise in an empty bladder. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds and relax them for 5 seconds. Do this five times in a day - on your first day. Once you are through with the routine, you can perfect your technique by increasing the seconds to 10 and so on.
- Maintain focus: Focus on tightening your pelvic floor muscles only.
- Don'ts: Avoid holding your breath and be careful not to flex the muscles in your thighs, abdomen or buttocks. Breathe freely while clenching and releasing the muscles.
- Repeat: Do exercise three times a day. Begin with five repetitions and then move on to ten.
Kegel Exercises For Men
Doing the exercise is equally beneficial for men. It can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder and bowel and affect the individual's sexual function. You can benefit from Kegel exercises if you have urinary or faecal incontinence and dribble after urination, usually when you have left the toilet , .
I. Benefits of Kegel exercises for men
1. Treats nocturia
Also called nocturnal urination, this results in the excessive development of urine (more than 2 litres) at night than the bladder is able to hold. Nocturia disturbs your sleep routine and can make you weak. The Kegel exercise helps by exercising your pelvic muscle and making it stronger to withhold the excessive urine and improve your sleep. It also helps in reducing the amount of excess urine hold up, by eliminating the waste at correct intervals .
2. Manages urinary incontinence
This condition occurs when your pelvic floor muscles are weak and cause the involuntary leakage of urine. Urinary incontinence occurs when the control over the urinary sphincter is either lost or weakened. The Kegel exercise aids in dealing with the situation as it will work the pelvic floor muscles and strengthen them. Once the muscles regain its strength and become tight, no leakages will occur as you will have control over your urination tendency .
3. Prevents premature ejaculation
As your pelvic floor muscles are made stronger through the exercises, it provides improved sexual stamina, thereby allowing you to control your orgasm. The volume and force of ejaculation will also be improved.
4. Manages prostate health
For men, doing the Kegel exercise can help improve their prostate health. It is increasingly beneficial for individuals suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis, as the movement of the muscles can help ease the pain, inflammation and swelling.
5. Improves sex life
Equally beneficial for men and women in this perspective, Kegel exercises can help improve your sexual stamina as there is better control over your muscles. Likewise, strong pelvic floor muscles help improve the blood flow to the sexual organs, improving one's sexual abilities .
Apart from these benefits, it helps in preventing the prolapse of pelvic organs and erectile function.
II. How to do Kegel exercises for men
- Find the muscles: In order to identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urinating in midstream or clench the muscles that keep you from passing gas. Once you locate your muscles, you can proceed with the exercise. It is easiest to be done when you are lying down .
- Build your technique: Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds and relax them for 5 seconds. You can do it for 3 seconds also, depending on what you may find comfortable. Continue it for 5 to 6 times. You can do the exercise while standing, sitting or walking.
- Maintain focus: Focus on tightening your pelvic floor muscles only.
- Don'ts: Avoid holding your breath and breathe freely during the exercise. Do not clench and release the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks.
- Repeat: Do exercise three times a day. Begin with five repetitions and then move on to ten per day.
When To Do Your Kegel Exercises
You can make this exercise a part of daily life. You do not need to make extra time for Kegel exercises .
- Do it while you are sitting at your desk or relaxing on the couch.
- Do it while you are at your routine tasks, such as washing dishes or while showering.
- Do one set of it after you urinate, so as to get rid of the few drops.
- Try to contract your pelvic floor muscles just before and during any activity that requires applying pressure on your abdomen (sneezing, coughing, laughing or heavy lifting).
When To Expect Results
If you are doing the Kegel exercises regularly, you can expect results within a period of a few weeks to a few months. Some of the initial results will be less frequent urine leakage, ability to hold the contractions longer or to do more repetitions, and more time between bathroom breaks .
If you are finding it difficult to continue with the exercises, you should contact a doctor or other health care provider who will help you in analysing the situation and provide you with feedback .
In case of no changes or no expectant results after doing the exercise for a period of a few months, consult a doctor .
- Overdoing the exercise can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, thereby resulting in the inability to control your bladder .
- If you feel pain in the abdomen or back during the exercise, it means that you are not doing it correctly (wrong muscles).