I need to know: are Kegel exercises actually good for you?

03 April 2019 - 09:57 By Melissa Kang
One of the easiest ways to practise Kegel exercises is while taking a wee.
One of the easiest ways to practise Kegel exercises is while taking a wee.
Image: 123RF/Vadimgozhda

Q: Are kegel exercises actually beneficial?

Kegel exercises are also known as pelvic floor exercises and were introduced back in the 1940s by a gynaecologist (a medical doctor specialising in women’s reproductive health) named, you guessed it, Dr Kegel. He developed these exercises as a method for improving control of urine leakage after childbirth.

Your pelvic floor muscles are quite an amazing collection of layers of muscle. The work they do also involves the bones of the pelvis (hip bones and lower end of the spine), ligaments and nerves. Together, they work a bit like a hammock across the bottom of your pelvis not only to keep your organs from sagging but also work in sync with your bladder, rectum (the last part of your large intestine) and the vagina, making sure urine and poo are stored and released when you’re ready for it.

You might not want a kid today (or ever!) and you might be of any gender – it doesn’t matter because keeping your pelvic floor muscles fit is good for now and the future. There is much less research on whether Kegels make sex more enjoyable or easier to orgasm, despite what you may have read online or heard from friends. However, what we do know is having a strong pelvic floor helps with sexual enjoyment after giving birth, and might also help men experiencing erection problems.

HOW TO DO THEM

Doing Kegel exercises is super easy once you know how. Because there are several pelvic floor muscles, it’s good to work out where they are and to exercise all of them.

  1. If you sit on the toilet to wee, try stopping the wee half way through and holding it like that for a few seconds, then let go. If you do that successfully, you’ve found some of your pelvic floor muscles.

  2. Next try squeezing the muscles around your anus as though you are holding in some wind.

  3. When you do pelvic floor exercises, you lift and squeeze all these muscles at once. Hold the squeeze for eight to ten seconds then relax for the same amount of time.

  4. Repeat this eight to ten times, and do it three times a day. That’s a pretty good daily workout.

The good thing about Kegel exercises is that you can do them pretty much anywhere. Sitting in class, on the bus or train, driving, watching TV, or reading The Conversation.

All people have pelvic floor muscles (not just women), but childbirth is a common reason why the pelvic floor muscles weaken. Ageing and surgery to the pelvic floor area can also weaken these muscles. This can lead to incontinence (involuntary leaking of urine, or less commonly leaking of poo) as well as sagging of the organs inside the pelvis.

Research shows doing Kegel exercises early in pregnancy can reduce incontinence later in pregnancy and after childbirth. It’s not certain how long the benefit lasts, but that’s because the research hasn’t extended beyond a few months.

If you do have problems with urine leakage, or have concerns about weakness of your pelvic floor muscles for some other reason, you might need help from a physiotherapist to get more personalised advice.

• The author, Melissa Kang, is associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney.

• This article was first published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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