You may have heard of Kegel exercises. But what are they, and why should you do them?
Kegels help tone muscles in your pelvic floor—the structure responsible for holding your bladder, bowel and uterus in place. These muscles can weaken after childbirth or as you get older, leading to problems such as difficulties with bladder control.
The good news is that Kegels, along with other exercises, can help make your life more comfortable.
“You may benefit from Kegels if you experience urine leakage from sneezing, laughing, jumping or coughing,” says personal trainer Nicole Davis, ACE-CPT.
- To isolate your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination midstream. (Just do this once or twice; repeatedly doing Kegels while urinating can cause the bladder to not empty completely, which puts you at risk for an infection.)
- Contract these muscles and hold for 5 seconds, then release for 5 seconds. Don’t flex the muscles in your abdomen, buttocks or thighs, and avoid holding your breath.
- Repeat 10 times, three times daily.
“If you're having trouble doing Kegel exercises, don't be embarrassed to ask for help,” advises the Mayo Clinic. “Your healthcare provider can give you important feedback so that you learn to isolate and exercise the correct muscles.”
The Clinic notes that if you do Kegels regularly, you can expect results “within about a few weeks to a few months” and adds, “for continued benefits, make Kegel exercises a permanent part of your daily routine.”
“Bird-dog is a full-body move that makes you engage many muscles at once, including the pelvic floor,” says Davis.
- Start on hands and knees, with knees hip-width apart and directly over your feet, and hands directly under your shoulders, fingers facing forward. Look directly down at the floor.
- Pull in your core muscles. Then slowly extend your left leg backwards until it is at, or near parallel, to the floor without any rotation in the hip. Your goal is to keep both hips parallel to the floor.
- Slowly raise your right arm until it is at, or near parallel, to the floor without any tilting at the shoulders. Your goal is to keep both shoulders parallel to the floor.
- Gently lower yourself back to your starting position and repeat with the opposite limbs.
This exercise works muscles that help stabilize the pelvis, which helps the pelvic floor do its job properly.
- Lie down on your side, legs stacked and knees bent. Rest your head on your lower arm; place your upper hand on the floor in front of you, elbow up.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles, then raise the top knee (while keeping your feet together) before slowly bringing it back down; do not move your lower leg.
- Repeat 20 times on each side.
“Bridge is a great exercise for the glutes,” says Davis. “If done correctly, it also activates the pelvic floor muscles in the process.”
- Lie on your back, then bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart on the mat.
- Put your arms flat on the floor by your sides with your palms against the ground, and spread your fingers.
- Lift your pelvic region off the ground; don’t let the buttocks sag. Keep your shoulders and head on the floor. Hold for 5 seconds, then release.
Squats are best known for strengthening the large muscles of the buttocks and upper legs; that strength helps support the pelvic floor.
- Stand with your heels planted shoulder-width apart.
- Engage your core while keeping your chest up and neck in a neutral position. Then bend your knees while pushing your hips back, creating a sitting motion. Raise your arms in front of you so that they are parallel to the floor as you complete the motion.
- Pause and briefly rest in the position as your thighs become parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position by pushing up through your heels.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.