The Kegel exercise, also called pelvic floor exercise, is one of the proven remedies against incontinence and also improves sexual well-being. Start by understanding why Kegel exercise can help you and then learn how to do it properly.
What are the Kegel exercise benefits?
A weak pelvic floor can lead to several disorders. The purpose of the Kegel exercises is to strengthen the pelvic floor which supports the bladder, the uterus and the anus. Indeed, as with training any muscles, contractions of the pelvic floor will increase strength, endurance, and motor control of the involved muscles. Kegel exercises might be useful if you want to:
Reduce urine leaks when laughing, coughing or sneezing
Kegels have been shown to help individuals with stress urinary incontinence, or the involuntary leakage of urine when doing “bearing down” activities such as laughing and coughing. Kegel exercises decrease both the prevalence and the severity of stress urinary incontinence by addressing the leading cause, which is weak pelvic floor musclulature.1
Reduce the sudden and strong urge to urinate
Urge incontinence is the sudden urge to urinate regardless of how full the bladder is. It has been found that strengthening the pelvic floor musculature will provide support to individuals with urge incontinence and potentially prevent leaks5.
Improve your sexual well-being
It is also theorized that kegels can improve sexual health and pleasure by improving the tone of the pelvic floor, increasing orgasmic intensity, and awareness of sexual response.2
Prevent incontinence during pregnancy and after childbirth
Performing kegels during and after pregnancy has been shown to improve pelvic floor strength and reduce risk of developing stress urinary incontinence following childbirth.3,4
How to do a kegel exercice properly?
Learn how to control your pelvic floor muscle
One way that both men and women can learn how to contract the pelvic floor is imagining contracting the pelvic floor to stop the flow of urine. Try to do it for real, if you manage to stop the flow of urine, you know how to contract your pelvic floor, congratulation!
While this is a good trick to learn the Kegel exercise, it is not recommended to actually stop urine flow on a regular basis due to risk of urinary tract infections from retaining urine. Try to use this technique as little as possible.
Do not contract other muscles
During your training, the muscles of the abdomen, the buttocks and the thighs should be relaxed. You can touch them with your hand while contracting the pelvic floor to make sure these muscles are not contracted during the Kegel exercise. This is important to make sure you are doing the Kegel exercise properly.
Contract, relax and repeat
The beginner should first practice the kegel exercise while lying down. This eliminates the effects of gravity and improves focus on the exercise since other muscles are relaxed. After holding for 5 seconds the pelvic floor contraction, relax the pelvic floor during 5 seconds, and repeat 10 times. Do at least 3 sets of 10 repetitions a day.
What to do if you find it difficult to perform the Kegel exercise properly?
An health care professional can help you
Attending physical therapy for a full assessment and assistance with these exercises may be beneficial to ensure that exercises are done safely and correctly.
Place two fingers over the pelvic floor
Since it can be difficult to know whether the exercise is being done correctly, a beginner may find it helpful to place two fingers over the pelvic floor to feel that the contraction is occurring in the right place.
Use a biofeedback device
Another way to do this is using biofeedback. A biofeedback device is relatively easy to use. This tool measures the contraction of the pelvic floor. The user will be able to see whether a contraction is occurring and how strong the contraction is. This allows the beginning user to feel more confident that the contraction is being executed correctly. These devices can be purchased for home use or used at a physical therapy office or other health clinic.
What routine should you follow?
Make the Kegel exercise your new habit
As with any exercise routine, the key to success is to incorporate your training into your schedule regularly. To make this training a new habit, it is better to do your exercises everyday at a certain time, or using reminders such as the one in the Kegel Trainer PFM Exercises app to ensure you don’t forget to practice your exercises.
Increase your strength step-by-step
- Beginner: practice the kegel exercise while lying down. After holding for 5 seconds the pelvic floor contraction, relax the pelvic floor during 5 seconds, and repeat 10 times. Do at least 3 sets of 10 repetitions a day.
- Intermediate: Once the kegel can be completed without difficulty while lying down, the intermediate-level exerciser should progress to kegels in the standing or seated position. This allows the contraction to be done against gravity, which increases the difficulty.
- Advanced: If the kegel can be performed in the sitting or standing position easily, it may be time to progress to using resistance. A few examples of resistance tools are weighted vaginal cones and toning balls such as Ben Wa Balls. These tools provide a downward and outward force on the vaginal wall, which increases the difficulty of contraction of the pelvic floor.
- Expert: For those who wish to further improve the health of their pelvic floor, a Kegel trainer device can help. These devices operates using an internal sensor to precisely assess the contraction of the pelvic floor. It also allows the user to play games using the sensor and to track their progress over time.
Adapt your training to your goal
- If reducing or preventing urinary incontinence is the goal, the contraction should be held for increasing amounts of time (as well as the relaxation).
- To improve sexual health and pleasure, the exerciser would likely improve motor control using a biofeedback device. Motor control refers to the connection between the brain and the pelvic floor muscles. Biofeedback helps with motor control by providing an assessment of the strength of each contraction.
Train for at least two months
By following this routine everyday, you should get your first results, such as less leaks when laughing, in a few weeks to a few months. Try to keep this routine for more than two months if you want to make these results permanent.
What else can you do to reduce or prevent stress incontinence?
There are others remedies for incontinence, here are 8 other methods that have been shown safe and effective to reduce or even stop stress incontinence:
- Physical therapy: get a pelvic floor rehabilitation with a specialist
- Weight loss: reduce your weight to reduce the pressure on your pelvic floor
- Voiding schedules: set reminders to use the bathroom more often
- Electrical stimulation and biofeedback tools: strengthen effectively your pelvic floor with these devices
- Vaginal cones and toning balls: strengthen your pelvic floor with these devices
- Pessaries: insert these devices to stop stress incontinence
- Diet: avoid bladder irritants, dehydration and try vitamin D supplements
- Apps: Use apps to exercises your pelvic floor and track your progression
With all the great benefits of kegel exercises, everyone has reason to incorporate a pelvic floor program into their health routine. The best pelvic floor training program is the one that coincides with your goals. Use these tips to guide you on your way to pelvic floor health!
1. AH K. Physiologic therapy for urinary stress incontinence. J Am Med Assoc. 1951;146(10):915-917. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.1951.03670100035008.
2. Phillips NA. Female sexual dysfunction: Evaluation and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(1):127-136+141.
3. Mørkved S, Bø K, Schei B, Salvesen KÅ. Pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy to prevent urinary incontinence: a single-blind randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2003;101(2):313-319. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0029-7844(02)02711-4.
4. Harvey M-A. Pelvic Floor Exercises During and After Pregnancy: A Systematic Review of Their Role in Preventing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. J Obstet Gynaecol Canada. 2003;25(6):487-498. doi:10.1016/S1701-2163(16)30310-3.
5. Price N, Dawood R, Jackson SR. Pelvic floor exercise for urinary incontinence: A systematic literature review. Maturitas. 2010;67(4):309-315. doi:10.1016/J.MATURITAS.2010.08.004.