None of us wants to feel any less than our best. Staying active, eating well and leading a varied lifestyle are all ways of keeping in great condition; however, research indicates that there is one crucial area of our bodies that we often neglect.
As with all muscles, the pelvic floor muscles require regular exercise to stay healthy and strong. Their elasticity can also be affected by factors such as childbirth and menopause. They act as a sling for pelvic organs such as the bladder and the uterus, offering life-long support and potentially influencing everything from continence to enjoyment of intimacy. Unfortunately, research indicates that 1 in 3 women may have a pelvic floor disorder, with 27.6% of women worldwide suffering from urinary incontinence.
Kegel exercises – which consist of a series of voluntary contractions of the pelvic floor – are an easy way to tone up these muscles, and are simple to integrate into your daily routine. Below are some tips to help you get started:
A healthy pelvic floor is crucial for women of every age, so it’s important to start exercising before you start to have problems. Here’s OB/GYN and Intimina Medical Advisory Board member Dr. Bailey Birkolz with advice on what age to start your Kegels:
Finding the Pelvic Floor Muscles
The first step is making sure you know exactly how to find and feel your pelvic floor muscles. One method is to try to stop the flow of urine. This should only be tested once a week, rather than as a regular exercise. Never attempt this if you have difficulty emptying your bladder.
You may also be able to feel your pelvic floor muscles by inserting a lubricated finger to feel the walls of your vagina while lifting and squeezing your pelvic openings (the vagina, urethra and anus).
Creating an effective routine
Because your pelvic floor is hidden, you can do Kegels anywhere without anyone being any the wiser. However, most women initially find the exercises easier in a sitting or lying position. When comfortable, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles tightly in an upward motion, maintaining your normal breathing pattern and ensuring that you don’t flex your abdominal or buttocks muscles at the same time. Hold and then relax. Give your muscles a couple of seconds to recover, and then repeat.
Do several cycles of Kegels each day, and don’t assume results will be instant – you wouldn’t expect washboard abs after one visit to the gym.
Using an exercise aid
Many women improperly embark on fruitless Kegel routines, which can be linked to a lack of motivation to exercise, or to not being able to find the pelvic floor muscles – one report has suggested that as many as half of women are unable to accurately locate their pelvic floor. As such, it can be helpful to use a weighted Kegel exercise device in your daily routine. As with any exercise aid, this will ensure that you use the right muscles, and give additional resistance when performing the exercises themselves.
However you choose to structure your routine, the important thing to remember is that a stronger pelvic floor is only ever a good thing. Whether you’re an expecting or new mother, going through menopause, or looking for more satisfying intimate experiences, Kegel exercises are a great way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and improve your quality of life.