What are Kegel Exercises?

The Most Important Sexercise You’re not Doing

Photo © Khoa Vu/Getty Images. Photo © Khoa Vu/Getty Images

When we think “exercise” we often think about getting 6-pack abs or a behind like JLo. But what if I told you there’s one miracle exercise you’re not doing that could provide you with life-changing benefits way beyond a flat stomach or the perfect derriere?

Doing Kegel exercises strengthens the pelvic muscles and has multiple health and sexual wellness benefits for men and women.

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that wrap around the underside of the bladder and bowel. In women, these muscles also include the uterus. Both men and women run the risk of pelvic floor dysfunction which includes abnormal bowels and pain in your pelvic area and genitals.

Many women start to notice problems with their pelvic floor after pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. Men can experience weakened pelvic floor muscles after surgery for bladder or bowel issues, an injury after heavy lifting or are in poor physical health. Men who have had prostate surgery are required to strengthen these muscles as part of the recovery process so they can control their bladder.

Both men and women can experience challenges with their pelvic floor muscles, so learning how to consistently strengthen them is key to a healthy pelvic floor.

How do I know If I have a pelvic floor issue?

  • leaking urine when you laugh, exercise, cough or sneeze

  • constantly needing to go to the bathroom

  • rushing to the bathroom and not making it there in time

  • losing control of your bladder or bowel

  • dropping, heaviness or pulling feeling in vagina or feeling a bulge in the vagina can be related to vaginal prolapse

While these symptoms can be related to your pelvic floor, there might be other causes so it’s always important to see your doctor if you’re experiencing pain with emptying or controlling your bowels or having pain with urination.

Doing regular Kegel exercises can help with these pelvic floor issues and can also improve overall sexual health and satisfaction.

The good news, is Kegels are easy to do, only take five minutes a day, you can do them anywhere, and you’ll experience the benefits within 6-8 weeks (or less!). Just like working out any other muscle at the gym, you have to be consistent with your Kegel exercises.

How Women Benefit from Kegel Exercises

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There are many benefits for women who do Kegel exercises on a regular basis. As we age, all of our muscles will lose tone and weaken if we do not take care of them with exercise and the vaginal muscles are no exception.

There are many benefits for women who practice their Kegel exercises regularly including:

  • Experience more intense and frequent orgasms

  • Increase sexual sensation

  • Help in overcoming urinary incontinence

  • Decrease vaginal or pelvic pain during intercourse

  • Increase blood flow to the pelvic region, helping postmenopausal women maintain lubrication

  • Repairs, tones and strengthens the vagina during and after childbirth (in France, Kegels are a big part of postnatal care).

  • Treats women with pelvic organ prolapse

How Men Benefit from Kegel Exercises

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 Many different scenarios can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, including the removal of the prostate and conditions such as diabetes and an overactive bladder.

Men who do their exercises can experience many health benefits including:

  • Improves erectile dysfunction and delays premature ejaculation

  • Increases ejaculatory control

  • Prolongs climax and enhances pleasure

  • Improves bladder control, especially as men age

Treats men with prostate difficulty

Target Those Muscles

Photo © Atsushi Yamada/Getty Images. Photo © Atsushi Yamada/Getty Images

When you venture into Kegel territory, you want to make sure you’re doing them correctly.

First, locate your PC muscle (or pubococcygeus muscle). To find them, target the muscles you use to control the flow of urine. If you’ve ever had to stop the flow because someone was knocking on the bathroom door and then release again once the coast is clear, then you know exactly where to find your pelvic floor muscles.

While you’re doing this, be sure to concentrate on your pelvic floor muscles specifically. It’s important to isolate and become familiar with these muscles first, because people often mistake their buttocks or thigh muscles for the PC muscles.  Make sure there is no movement of the abdominal muscles and very little movement of the buttocks while doing the exercises.

Women can also find them by placing a clean, lubricated finger inside the vagina and tightening the muscles around the finger. You should feel more of a lifting or narrowing of the vagina.

Men can also locate theirs by inserting a lubricated finger slowly into the rectum and trying to squeeze it without tightening the butt, thighs or abdomen. Make sure the base of the penis draws in and the scrotum lifts up. You might also feel your anus tighten but this is not where the focus should be during the exercise.

How to Kegel

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Kegel exercises are not only easy to do, but can also be done anywhere. You can use a system that will trigger and remind you to do them every time you’re at a traffic light, standing in line at the grocery store, or talking on the phone. It doesn’t matter where you do them, as long as you’re doing them correctly.

Starter Kegel exercise tips:

●     Find a comfortable position, that isn’t on the toilet. Some people find it’s easier to do them while lying down.

●     Hold or squeeze the PC muscles for three seconds, then relax for three seconds. Make sure not to tighten your stomach or thigh muscles, and don’t worry if you can’t last the whole three seconds on your first try.

●     To try more advanced exercises, practice increasing the time you are holding from three to five seconds, and alternate with quick pulses.

●     Repeat this entire process up to 15 times per session. It’s best to do them everyday, on a regular schedule and set reminders to keep you on track.

You can also try an app like Kegel Camp to set a daily reminder on your phone so you’ll never forget to do them! The app also challenges you through 20 levels, each one with increasing difficulty, to make sure that you’re reaching new levels of pelvic floor strength.

Extra Credit

Photo © Daniel Ingold/Getty Images. Photo © Daniel Ingold/Getty Images

As you get more advanced, you can increase your Kegel sessions to three times a day. Each week, increase your hold time by one extra second until you are able to squeeze for 10 seconds per Kegel exercise.

If you really want to intensify the process, add accoutrements to keep things fun, interesting and effective!

Women can try incorporating Kegel balls, which are small weighted balls that you insert into the vagina to exercise the pelvic floor muscles. As an added bonus, you can go about your daily business with them inside of you so that you’re doing your exercises without even trying (and possibly enjoying your errands a little more).

Take it a step further and purchase a stimulation device that actually does the Kegel exercises for you, like the Intensity. The Intensity is inflatable, customizing its fit to each unique vagina. This is to make sure you’re targeting the correct muscles and that they are tensing and relaxing at the right intervals. It’s so good at what it does that it might even give you an orgasm along the way.

Just like any other muscle, your PC muscles will weaken if you don’t keep up with your exercises. It’s best to start a regular practice in order to have a healthy pelvic floor throughout your lifetime.

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