The benefits of Kegel exercises? They’re not just for sex anymore!
Okay, maybe they never were just for sex, but I know that was the first time I heard about them. It was the same way I heard about all sorts of things I wasn’t supposed to. The ladies powder room. Oh, the colorful conversations held in those hallowed halls of swinging doors and tampon machines. At that time, I heard the benefits of Kegel exercises (which I had to look up, by the way, as this was WAY before Google), was an increase in muscle strength, allowing one to wield their vagina like a vise, thus improving the experience for the woman, and her partner.
Well, it’s time to talk about them again. Kegel exercises, that is. As we age, we are at risk for not-so-fun things like pelvic prolapse and urinary incontinence. Coughing, laughing or straining can cause breakthrough “embarrassment.” I know I’ve been around women who, following a good laugh, were heard to exclaim, “Uh, oh!”
According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing Kegel exercises until you can do three sets of 10 repetitions every day can improve muscle control and continence – or prevent your condition from getting worse. I remember when women were told to work on these exercises by stopping and starting the urine stream. Not such a good idea, it turns out. That can lead to incomplete emptying of your bladder, and increase the risk of a urinary tract infection, which should be avoided at all cost. That practice does, however, help you isolate the right muscle group so you know what a proper Kegel feels like when the right time to practice them comes along.
Now that we’ve talked about the non-sexual benefits of Kegel exercises, let’s get back to sex. In 1952, Dr. Kegel reported that women who performed the exercises achieved orgasm more easily, more frequently and more intensely. Post menopause, regular Kegel exercise can provide the same benefit. With the ability to tighten and keep muscle tension during intercourse, you keep more blood in your pelvic region, which results in more sensitivity in the clitoral nerve system. In other words, “I’ll have what she’s having!”
Another great thing about Kegels is they can be done almost anywhere. I know a woman who does them at traffic lights. You can do them while watching TV, waiting in line at the grocery store or while waiting for the cute bartender to finish making your drink. They don’t require a fancy gym membership or personal trainer (giggle). Just like with any exercise program, don’t panic if you don’t see (or experience) instant results. It may take a few weeks or even months. But ladies, DO make sure you are performing the exercises correctly. The link to the Mayo Clinic below provides the exercise steps and more detail regarding their health benefits.
To get started:
Find the right muscles. To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. If you succeed, you’ve got the right muscles. Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles you can do the exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first.
Perfect your technique. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
Maintain your focus. For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.
Repeat three times a day. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.
This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.