“Seriously, I’m doing them right now.”
“No way…right now?
“Yes, I do them everyday”
I do my best not to cringe or grin awkwardly at my friend as she continues to describe her daily Kegel exercise routine. I don’t live under a rock. I’ve heard of Kegel exercises before. However, I had always considered the exercise to be something pregnant women do to prepare for labor, or other women do to improve their sex life. Then she said something that really struck me, and I couldn’t hold back my shock:
“My husband does them too.”
That was enough for me to decide to investigate. Were there actual benefits to performing Kegel exercises for anyone, even men? I consulted trusty “Dr. Google,” the source of about 80 percent of my medical wisdom (that qualifies, right?), to find out more about Kegel exercises and their benefits for women–and men.
Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles
The pelvic floor is responsible for supporting several internal organs in the lower abdomen of both men and women. Several factors can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, causing them to stretch out and lack supporting strength.
Aging and weight gain are just a couple of the most common factors that cause this weakening, which can lead to urinal incontinence. For women specifically, pregnancy and childbirth can also cause a drastic decrease in pelvic floor strength. Since these muscles are responsible for supporting the weight of the bladder, womb, and bowels, a weak pelvic floor can lead to a drop or lowering of these organs into the woman’s vagina, leading to conditions such as uterine prolapse. Not only is this uncomfortable but it can also lead to other health issues later in life.
For men, prostate surgeries and other issues can lead to pelvic floor issues, making Kegel exercises beneficial for men too. I suppose my friend and her husband weren’t totally off their rocker…
So…how do you do them?
Kegel exercises can be simple, but they are also easy to do incorrectly. The most straightforward way to understand the process of strengthening your pelvic floor is to practice clenching the pelvic muscles for a few seconds at a time, and then releasing. This process works for both men and women. Finding those muscles may be difficult for some, but the simplest way to locate the proper muscles is to attempt to stop urinating when you are mid-flow. Be advised though, holding in your urine isn’t something you should do repeatedly, as stopping your urine flow repeatedly can lead to other health issues in both men and women. Therefore, once you get the hang of it, only perform Kegel exercises when your bladder is empty.
If you are unsure whether or not you have properly located your pelvic floor muscles or whether or not you are clenching them correctly, you can always ask your doctor. They are likely to be more qualified than Dr. Google…I guess. They can locate the exact muscles you should be aiming for, and they can also help you to practice clenching them correctly.
The benefits of Kegels aren’t evident immediately. It may take weeks to see real results, but keep it up. Even if you don’t see any real improvements to incontinence or other health issues you may be having, you at least won’t see any negative side effects from performing Kegels properly.