Kegels & Pelvic Floor Exercises: Myths and Misconceptions
Kegels and pelvic floor exercises can help minimize incontinence and lower back pain while also increasing sexual sensation.
Kegel exercises, named for the American gynecologist who invented them, work the pelvic floor, a collection of muscles between your pubic bone and tailbone. Be sure to consider all sides when reading some of the common misconceptions about these exercises.
Myth: Only women have a pelvic floor.
Reality: Both men and women have a pelvic floor, and everyone can benefit from exercising it. A woman's pelvic floor muscles support her bladder, bowels and uterus. A man's pelvic floor muscles support his bladder and bowels.
Men can benefit from pelvic floor exercises if they have an overactive bladder or diabetes, or have had their prostate removed. Pelvic floor exercises can also help treat erectile dysfunction and prevent premature ejaculation.
Myth: Pelvic floor exercises are difficult.
Reality: The most difficult part of pelvic floor exercises is finding the correct muscles to exercise. Men can find their pelvic floor muscles by stopping their urine midstream. Women can find their pelvic floor muscles by pretending they're tightening their vagina around a tampon. Both men and women can identify pelvic floor muscles by pretending they're trying to avoid passing gas.
Once you've located the muscles, flex them for three to five seconds and then relax for five seconds. Do this 10 times, three to four times a day, every day. This number may seem intimidating, but the exercises are easy to do while you're busy doing other tasks, and no one can tell you're doing them. Try to fit some in while you wait in line at the grocery store or sit through a work meeting.
You can practice different variations of the exercise, so try to find one that you're best able to perform. For example, you can hold your pelvic floor muscles for 10 seconds and then relax for 10, or hold and relax your muscles in rapid succession.
If you struggle with pelvic floor exercises or aren't seeing the results you want, try different exercises, such as squats and certain yoga poses, to strengthen the area without Kegels.
Myth: Leakage is normal.
Reality: Leakage is common but doesn't have to be normal. As you age, you may find yourself leaking more, especially when you cough, laugh or sneeze. You may also have to wake up constantly in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. But you don't have to accept this as normal.
Throughout your life, you've performed activities such as heavy lifting, coughing and running. Such activities weaken pelvic floor muscles over time. Childbirth and gaining weight also put a strain on pelvic floor muscles. The consequence of not strengthening your pelvic floor muscles means you may have leakage.
Once you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, you'll have better control over your bladder, meaning fewer leaks and better sleep.
Myth: Pelvic floor exercises don't work.
Reality: They do work. Many people who claim pelvic floor exercises don't work simply failed to continue their workout on their own after initially working with a trainer. Others are flexing the wrong muscles, such as inner thighs, abdominals or buttocks.
Like any exercise, it will take time to see results. Pelvic floor exercises may take up to 12 weeks to make a difference, but perseverance will help you get results.
From increasing sexual sensation to strengthening your bladder, there are many reasons why you should practice Kegels and pelvic floor exercises. It's simple to strengthen your pelvic floor, and the benefits can vastly improve your quality of life.