Kegel exercises are a set of physical exercises for the pelvic floor muscles, named after their inventor, a professor of gynecology at the University of Southern California. Dr. Arnold Kegel developed them back in the 1950s, and they have not lost their effectiveness or popularity since then.
In this article of Dr. Silina School of Women’s Health, we tell you why Kegel exercises are useful not only for women, but also for men. And, of course, we explain how to perform them correctly.
What are Kegel exercises
They are aimed at strengthening the pelvic floor muscles that support the internal genitals, bladder and rectum. They are located between the pubic bone and coccyx. These muscles support the pelvic organs in the correct anatomical position and prevent them from moving downward.
Who needs them
Kegel exercises help strengthen the bulbospongiosus muscle. This important muscle has three functions: it allows the penis to be filled with blood during erection, pumps blood during ejaculation, and helps empty the urethra after urination.
What problems exercises can solve:
- Urinary or fecal incontinence
- Drops after urination
- Erectile dysfunction
Urinary incontinence, the loss of bladder control, is a common and unpleasant problem. The severity ranges from occasional urine leakage when coughing or sneezing to so sudden and intense urge to urinate that it can be difficult to get to the restroom in time.
Urinary incontinence is not just a medical problem. It affects emotional, psychological and social life. Many people with urinary incontinence are afraid of simple everyday activities. They don’t want to stray too far from the WC. Urinary incontinence reduces the quality of life and prevents people from enjoying it. Not to say about a normal and fulfilling sex life or fertility.
Many people think that urinary incontinence is just part of aging. But it’s not. And it can be managed and treated.
Erectile dysfunction, or the inability to maintain an erection, is a problem that occurs in many men for a variety of reasons. It is often caused by physical illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and low testosterone levels. Other causes may include psychological problems, blood flow problems, hormonal fluctuations and nerve damage.
A study by Western University in the UK found that pelvic floor muscle exercises helped 40% of men regain normal erectile function. They also helped an additional 33.5% significantly improve erectile function. Additional research suggests that pelvic floor muscle training may be useful in treating erectile dysfunction as well as other pelvic health problems.
Before trying any Kegel exercise for men, it is better to make sure there are no contraindications. A consultation with a doctor is mandatory. The main contraindications:
- Acute inflammatory process in organs of the urogenital system (due to increased blood circulation, the infection can spread further);
- Hemorrhoids (do not perform push-pull exercises, as hemorrhoids can fall out or increase in size);
- Oncology (metabolic stimulation may cause metastasis);
- Period after pelvic surgery;
- Vascular diseases in the area;
- Do not perform Kegel exercises if you have a Foley catheter (a thin, flexible tube).
Many factors can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, including surgical removal of the prostate (radical prostatectomy), diabetes and overactive bladder. And Kegel exercises might help you with that.
How to do Kegel exercises
- Find the right muscles. To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urinating halfway or tense the muscles that keep you from farting. These maneuvers engage the pelvic floor muscles. With proper muscle compression, the base of the penis should move slightly toward the abdomen. The testicles should also rise slightly. After identified the pelvic floor muscles, you can perform the exercises in any position. Although at first, it may seem easier to perform them lying down.
- Improve your technique. Start with retracting your pelvic floor muscles and hold them there for 5 seconds. Think of retracting and lifting your genitals. Don’t hold your breath. If you count out loud, it will keep you from holding your breath. After 5 seconds, slowly and completely relax your muscles, keeping them that way for 5 seconds.
- Try it several times in a row. When your muscles get stronger, try doing Kegel exercises sitting or standing.
- Stay focused. For best results, focus on tensing only the pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to strain the abdominal, thigh, or buttock muscles.
- Repeat three times a day. Try to do at least three sets of 10 reps a day.
- Make Kegel exercises a part of your daily life. For example: do a set of Kegel exercises every time you perform a routine task, such as brushing your teeth. Do one more approach after you urinate to get rid of the last few drops of urine.
- Tense your pelvic floor muscles just before and during any activity that puts pressure on your stomach, such as sneezing, coughing, laughing or lifting weights.
- Lie on your back with your lower back pressed firmly in place, and bend your knees at shoulder width. Place your hands along your body and keep your feet firmly planted on the floor.
- Breathe in and lift your hips and back to a straight line with your shoulders, squeeze your buttocks and tense your abs.
- At the top point, pause for a couple of seconds, and, exhaling and squeezing the buttocks even harder, return to the starting position. Try not to touch the floor with your buttocks – immediately start another ascent upwards.
- Repeat the exercise the required number of times. Generally, 20-30 reps will be enough.
- There is no need to additionally strain the intimate muscles – they will be involved anyway.
- You can also perform a variety of modifications of this exercise with kneeling or pulsating glute raises at the top point.
- Starting position: lying on your back with your lower back pressed to the floor. Arms stretched out along the body. Knees bent at right angles.
- Slowly lift your legs up. Breathe out during the ascent. Keep your knees bent at right angles. Continue raising your legs until your hips are perpendicular to the floor and your shins are parallel. Hold this position for one count.
- Return to the starting position by slowly lowering your legs. Take a breath as you lower yourself. Do not lower your feet completely to the floor. Just slightly touch it.
- Start with one 10-rep approach, gradually increasing the number of repetitions from workout to workout. Once you have secured a 20-rep approach, add a second 10-rep. Increase the number of reps to two sets of 20, then add a third set of 10. Then develop this into three sets of 30 reps.
When you’ll see the result
1.5-2 months of regular exercise are enough to adapt to the new loads, and for the muscles to tone. If you do not notice the effect, it may be worth reconsidering the technique.
If urinary incontinence still bothers you despite good and sustained efforts to strengthen your pelvic floor, discuss treatment options with your doctor.
May you be healthy, mentally, physically, sexually and reproductively.
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