Tips & Advice: Exercising Your Pelvic Muscles

  • Female Bladder

    Why should you exercise your pelvic muscles?

    Life's events can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. Some factors for women include: pregnancy, childbirth, and weight gain. In men, prostate surgery or an enlarged prostate (BPH) can contribute to weak pelvic floor muscles.

    Luckily, pelvic floor muscles are just like other muscles- this means that with exercise, you can help make them strong again. Both men and women with bladder control problems can regain control through pelvic muscle exercises, also called Kegel exercises.

  • Pelvic fitness in minutes a day

    Exercising your pelvic floor muscles for just 5 minutes, three times a day can make a big difference to your bladder control. Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles that control the flow of urine and hold the bladder and many other organs in place. The part of your body including your hip bones is the pelvic area. At the bottom of the pelvis, several layers of muscle stretch between your legs. The muscles attach to the front, back, and sides of the pelvis bone. Two pelvic muscles do most of the work. The biggest one stretches like a hammock. The other is shaped like a triangle. These muscles prevent leaking of urine and stool.

  • How do you exercise your pelvic muscles?

    • Find the right muscles.

      This is very important. Your doctor, nurse, or physical therapist will help make sure you are doing the Kegels the right way. You should tighten the two major muscles that stretch across your pelvic floor. They are the "hammock" muscle and the "triangle" muscle. Here are three methods to check for the correct muscles.

      1. Stop the flow of your urine midstream. These are the muscles used to do kegel exercises.
      2. Imagine that you are trying to stop passing gas. Squeeze the muscles you would use. If you sense a "pulling" feeling, those are the right muscles for pelvic exercises.
      3. For women, imagine that you are sitting on a marble and want to pick up the marble with your vagina.
      4. For women, lie down and put your finger inside your vagina. Squeeze as if you were trying to stop urine from coming out. If you feel tightness on your finger, you are squeezing the right pelvic muscle.

    • Don't squeeze other muscles at the same time.

      Kegel Exercise DiagramBe careful not to tighten your stomach, legs, or other muscles. Squeezing the wrong muscles can put more pressure on your bladder control muscles. Just squeeze the pelvic muscle. Don't hold your breath.

    • Repeat, but don't overdo it.

      At first, find a quiet spot to practice—your bathroom or bedroom—so you can concentrate. Lie on the floor or bed. Contract the pelvic muscles and hold for a count of 3. Then relax for a count of 3. Work up to 10 or 15 repetitions each time you exercise.

    • Do your pelvic exercises at least three times a day.

      Turn kegels into a daily habit. You may find it easier to do them at the same time every day (ie. while brushing your teeth in the morning, standing in line for your afternoon coffee, or sitting at home watching TV at night). Every day, use three positions: lying, sitting, and standing. You can exercise while lying in bed, sitting at a desk, or standing in the kitchen. Using all three positions makes the muscles strongest.

    • Be patient.

      Don't give up. It's just 5 minutes, three times a day. You may not feel your bladder control for the first 3 to 6 weeks. Still, most people do notice an improvement after a few weeks.

    • Exercise aids.

      Women can also exercise by using special kegel weights or biofeedback. Ask your doctor about these exercise aids.

    • Hold the squeeze 'til after the sneeze

      You can protect your pelvic muscles from more damage by thinking ahead and tightly squeezing your pelvic muscles just before sneezing, lifting, or jumping. Sudden pressure from such actions can hurt those pelvic muscles. After you train yourself to tighten the pelvic muscles for these moments, you will have fewer wetting accidents.

    Weak Kegel Muscles
    Strong Kegel Muscles
    Before exercises, weak muscles let urine leak.
    After exercises, strong muscles can hold urine in.

  • Points to remember

    • Weak pelvic muscles often cause bladder control problems.
    • Daily kegel exercises can strengthen pelvic muscles.
    • These pelvic floor exercises often improve urinary control.
    • Ask your doctor or nurse if you are you squeezing the right muscles.
    • Tighten your kegel muscles before sneezing, lifting, or jumping. This can prevent further pelvic muscle damage.

    Download a pelvic floor exercise log to help you with your routine.

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