What are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel Exercises are defined as a sustained, sub-maximal contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. The purpose of practicing Kegel exercises is to strengthen the muscles that help control bowel and bladder function. Kegel exercises are also known as pelvic floor exercises.
Recognizing the correct muscles to exercise is important. The muscles you need to exercise are the same muscles you would use to hold back gas, stool or urine. When contracting (squeezing) these muscles you should feel the anus (and for women, vagina) closing, tightening, and lifting higher inside of you.
How do I exercise my pelvic muscles?
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 in between contractions.
For best results
- Focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to tighten the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Place your hand below your belly button while doing the exercises. If you feel your abdomen or body move, you are using too many muscles. If needed, try lying with your back flat, feet flat, and knees up to help notice any extra movements.
- Avoid holding your breath. Breathe freely.
- You do not need to contract as tightly as you can; focus on holding just above half your maximum strength. It is important to be able to comfortably hold the contraction for the full 5-10 seconds.
- Goal: Work up to doing 4 sets of 5 repetitions, 2 times per day.
Start by doing the exercises in a lying or sitting position. It is important to find a quiet place to practice, so you can concentrate. Eventually, do them in a standing position as well.
Note: You may not see results right away. If you do not see improvement in your symptoms after 2-3 months, follow up with your doctor. If you find these exercises relieve your symptoms, plan to do them forever. Exercise keeps these muscles strong.
Many people have difficulty finding these muscles or doing these exercises correctly. Your doctor, nurse or therapist can check to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly. For additional assistance, a biofeedback therapist can use special sensors and a computer monitor to assist you in finding and exercising the correct muscles.