This article first appeared on the Good Therapy website.
Have you heard of pelvic floor exercises? You may have learnt about them from your aerobics instructor. Or perhaps your urologist was the one who ordered you to squeeze your butt cheeks together? Maybe your gynae was the one who asked you to attempt to tighten your vagina, or was it your anus?
I have news for you: They’re all the same thing. This exercise is more commonly known as the Kegel exercise.
Named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, the Kegel exercise consists of contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor. The muscles actually being squeezed are known as the pubococcygeus muscles (or PC muscles for short) at the pelvic floor.
There are many benefits to doing Kegels. For men and women, it helps strengthens pelvic floor muscles weakened due to aging, from being overweight, or for those who have a chronic cough, or a genetic predisposition to weak connective tissue.
Women who experience pelvic organ prolapse or urine leakage due to pregnancy and childbirth benefit from doing Kegels. Also women who have persistent problems reaching orgasm find Kegels sensitise their pelvic muscles. For men, Kegels aids in better ejaculatory control and can help treat prostate pain and swelling.
To locate your PC muscles, imagine how it feels when you need to pee, but for whatever reason (say you are in a meeting), you are unable to immediately do so. Or try to stop the flow of urine while you are actually using the bathroom. That’s right! Those are the muscles. After contracting those muscles, use your mind to relax them, you should feel your pelvic floor move back down to the starting position.
I can simplify the ‘How’ into three keywords:
- Frequency – If you have never done any Kegels before, chances are your muscles are not well developed. Use a “squeeze, hold, release” pattern. Do so for a minimum of three sets (10 times per set) daily. If you are doing them correctly, you should feel some slight ‘burn’ or tiredness around your outer thigh.
- Duration – Within days, you should be able to build up from duration of one second up to three seconds. If you can get to a count of 10, even 15, seconds, repeating the “squeeze, hold, and release” – that would be excellent!
- Intensity – As your muscles become stronger — and you become more experienced with the exercises — this movement will be more pronounced. This is when you have the ability to not only contract on the surface level, but squeeze even further. Much like how bodybuilders who lift weights push themselves just that bit more, you can also do that for your pelvic region!
Kegel exercises can be done anytime, anywhere. They are easy to do and require no special equipment. There is no reason not to do them, considering the benefits to bladder and bowel control and also sexual function! Give it a try!
Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.