Keeping Up With Kegel Exercises
It’s completely normal to leak urine from time to time—especially when you laugh, sneeze, cough, run, or lift heavy objects. This may happen more frequently as you age; if you’re overweight; if you’re pregnant or have had babies; or if you’ve had surgery in your pelvis. Fortunately, there’s a free and fairly easy way to prevent urine leakage—Kegel exercises.
Kegel exercises involve squeezing and holding the muscles that you use to stop urine flow. These muscles are located at the bottom of your pelvis and stretch between your legs. They help support your uterus, bladder and bowel. Like any muscles, the more you use them, the stronger they become. The best way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles is with Kegel exercises.
In addition to preventing urine leakage, strong pelvic floor muscles can make childbirth easier and minimize hemorrhoids.
You don’t need to go to a gym to do Kegels. In fact, you can work out your pelvic floor muscles wherever you are—such as sitting at your desk, driving a car, chopping vegetables at the kitchen counter, and watching TV. No one will be the wiser. You also won’t work up a sweat—and Kegels are almost effortless.
Here’s how to perform Kegel exercises properly:
Find your pelvic floor muscles. You can do this several ways. One is to stop your urine flow midstream when you’re going to the bathroom. Or, if you’re a woman, you can insert a finger into your vagina and try to squeeze it. If you feel pressure on your finger, you know you are squeezing the right muscles. If you’re still not sure you’re squeezing the right muscles, ask your doctor or nurse for help.
Get into position. You can do Kegel exercises standing, sitting, or lying down. However, until you master them, it's easiest to do them lying on your back.
Squeeze and hold. You want to squeeze your muscles and hold them to a count of four. Then relax to a count of four. Alternate with some longer squeezes of up to 10 seconds. It’s good to mix quick flicks with longer ones.
Relax your other muscles. When you’re doing Kegel exercises, it’s important that you don’t contract your stomach, leg or buttock muscles at the same time. If those muscles do the work for your pelvic floor muscles, you may not accomplish your goal.
Practice makes perfect. Learning to squeeze the right muscles for Kegel exercises may not be as easy as it seems. The more you practice, the better you will be at it, and the more natural the exercises will feel.
Challenge yourself. Once you’ve mastered them, your Kegel exercises may start to become a little too easy. If this happens, try to hold your squeezes a few seconds longer. Or try doing your Kegels with your knees apart. This will work your muscles harder.
Some Kegels are better than no Kegels—but they’ll be most effective if you do them 1 to 2 times a day for five minutes each time. Here are tips for keeping up with Kegel exercises on a regular basis.
Do them at the same time every day. Your Kegels will be easier to remember if you find a way to consistently incorporate them into your daily routine. Try first thing in the morning and right before you go to sleep, or once during your commute to work and once on your way home.
Keep a log. Write down when you do your Kegels each day in a note pad, or note them in your phone.
Set up reminders. Add Kegel “appointments” to your calendar. If you keep your calendar on your phone or computer, make sure to set up automatic reminders for when it’s time to Kegel.
Use an app. Find a phone application that provides coaching on how to do Kegels, or reminds you to do yours each day.
Be patient. You may not notice a difference in right away. It can take 6 to 12 weeks of consistently doing Kegels for you to notice improvement.
Keep the momentum. Even once you’ve strengthened your muscles and gained better bladder control, continue to do the exercises in order to continue to enjoy their benefits!
It is much more common for women to leak urine than it is for men. However, Kegel exercises may help men as well. Men who leak urine should talk to their doctor about whether to try Kegel exercises.