Strengthening Your Pelvic Muscles for Better Health
The muscles in your pelvis are responsible for movement, control and support of your bladder and bowels, but they can easily be neglected. Some injuries, illnesses or surgeries can also damage your pelvic muscles, which can spark a chain reaction and leave you with uncomfortable and embarrassing chronic issues. If you have an overactive bladder, Kegel exercises will help you build the right muscles for more comfort, control and confidence.
What to Know About your Pelvic Muscles
The pelvic floor muscles stretch horizontally between the front, back and sides of the pelvic bone. Since they are right at the base of your pelvis, and not automatically stimulated with broader muscle movements, they can weaken and cause some trouble for the organs and muscles around them. In some cases, medical issues are responsible for the deterioration of your pelvic floor strength.
Pregnancy is one of the principle causes of weak pelvic floor muscles, but new mothers aren’t the only people at risk. Overactive bladder, surgical removal of the prostate and diabetes can also affect these supportive muscles. In any case, the best solution is a strengthening routine that targets those deep, specific muscles, which will require some training and concentration.
How to Practice Kegel Exercises
First, you need to find the right muscles, which can be easier said than done. It’s easy to tense up all the muscles around your hips, but that can actually put more pressure on your bladder control muscles. Instead, you need to isolate the deep band of muscles and then learn how to contract and relax them. You can locate your pelvic floor by:
- Stopping urination in midstream.
- Tightening the muscles that keep you from passing gas.
- Imagining that you are trying to pick up an object with your vagina.
- Tensing the muscles that bring the base of your penis closer to your abdomen.
Once you’ve located your pelvic floor muscles, begin to contract them in sets. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and separated, then tighten the muscles and hold for three seconds. Relax the muscles for three more seconds before you tighten again. Repeat this contracting and relaxing 10 to 12 times at first, and then add a few more repetitions as your pelvic floor strengthens.
Tips for Better Results
Changes happen gradually, so be patient. Start with 12 repetitions per set and about three or four sets each day, so you don’t overdo it and strain your muscles. You might find it easier to work your sets into your daily activities rather than setting aside a block of time for your exercise:
- Do a set first thing in the morning, during breakfast or in the shower.
- Do a set right after you use the bathroom.
- Do a set right before you sneeze, cough or laugh – anytime you contract your abdomen.
- Do a set when you’re driving to work.
If you stick with your Kegel exercises, you should start to see results in three to six weeks: you’ll probably notice you can hold your bladder for longer, and you’ll have fewer leaks. Try to practice your Kegel exercises while sitting, standing and lying down, so you strengthen all parts of your pelvic floor. Keep at it, and you’ll find that your bladder issues are much easier to handle, which is bound to improve your quality of life.