Kegel Exercises for Women –
What are they and what do we need to know?
Last week we discussed the importance of exercise for bone health and in today’s blog post we’re looking at another issue which can benefit from exercise; incontinence. You may have heard about the importance of Kegel exercises for women but what actually are Kegels and why exactly are they so important?
Urinary Incontinence affects one in three Irish women and one in nine Irish men, costing the HSE an estimated €100 million per year. Weakness of the pelvic floor muscles is known as a key contributor to Urinary Incontinence and can be caused by childbirth, surgery, strains and attributed to age.
Your pelvic floor muscle stretches like a muscular trampoline from your tailbone (coccyx) to your public bone in the front and side to side from one sit bone to the other. Your pelvic floor muscle helps to support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Typically the muscle is firm and thick, but it can wear with time which can cause issues such as bladder/bowel leakage, prolapse and even constipation.
For women, the pelvic floor muscle has three openings to allow passage for the urethra, vagina and anus and normally it will wrap tightly around these three openings to keep them shut. When the muscles are firm and contracted they stop the release of bodily waste but the relaxing and weakening of the muscle can lead to incontinence.
Many people don’t realise that exercise can have a positive and preventable effect on our pelvic floor. But, one of the most important things to note, is that while the muscle remains hidden, it can be controlled consciously, much like your arm or leg and therefore can benefit from exercise. So, what type of exercises can help?
Kegel Exercises for Women
Named after the American gynaecologist Arnold Kegel, the exercises were originally developed in the 1940s as a method of controlling incontinence in women after childbirth, but the benefits are now known to range the entire pelvic floor muscle.
The most important thing to do first is to locate the pelvic floor muscle. This can be found by firstly squeezing the ring around the back passage as if to stop wind. Then you need to figure out the rest of the muscle, this can be found by identifying the muscle which can stop urine mid flow. (It is important to only try this to identify the muscle and not as an exercise itself as it can cause bladder issues). For further help identifying your pelvic floor, please refer to this video from University of Michigan’s Medical Department.
Now that’s we’ve identified the correct muscle, here are some tips from the Continence Society of Australia to help you perform the exercises.
- Sit on a chair or lie down and relax
- Without tensing your legs or back muscles, squeeze and draw in the muscles around your back passage and vagina at the same time with a lifting motion. Hold the squeeze as tight as you can for eight seconds and then release. It should be noticeable that you’ve relaxed. Rest for at least eight seconds and then repeat. Aim for eight to twelve squeeze reps, rest and then repeat the cycle again twice more. At the end of a “workout” you should have done between 24 and 36 squeezes.
- Try doing this every day for maximum results
Please visit the Continence Foundation of Ireland for more information
***Disclaimer: The information in this post is for reference only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical expertise or advice. If you have any concerns about your own or another’s health then please contact your doctor.