What are Kegel exercises and should you be doing them?

Have you ever noticed that you leak a little urine when you jump or squat in the gym?

About 30 percent of women have had trouble urinating when they laugh or sneeze, according to a recent survey by sexual health and pleasure brand Lovehoney. It is much more common than many of us realize and is often related to a weak pelvic floor.

These are the muscles that run across the base of the pelvis and play a vital role in supporting our pelvic organs, including the bladder, and our ability to ‘hold things’. For this reason, a weak pelvic floor can lead to problems such as urine leakage or incontinence.

Why it happens?

As GP and sexual function specialist Dr. Anand Patel, who recently appeared as an expert on E4’s Embarrassing Bodies, points out, these problems “most commonly occur after childbirth or after menopause, but injury or damage to the nerves they can also create them”.

Pregnancy can affect the pelvic floor (Alamy/PA)

In fact, while pregnancy is recognized as one of the main factors, the pelvic floor muscles are important for everyone and also play a role in things like sexual function, for example, affecting sexual sensation in women and ejaculation. in men.

a hidden problem

According to Lovehoney’s research, nearly half of people affected by urine leakage (49%) said they hadn’t talked to anyone about it. This means that many people may not realize what is really going on, and without being able to talk to friends, family, or healthcare professionals about these concerns, they may feel even more anxious and isolated.

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As Dr. Patel points out, these things can have a huge impact on people’s lives, affecting “mood, self-confidence, body image, sexual function, sleep, exercise, and your relationship “.

Lovehoney’s survey found that 34 percent of respondents say it has affected their sex drive, and 31% say it has affected their relationships with their sexual partners. Additionally, 37 percent say this has affected their overall well-being.

How can I strengthen my pelvic floor?

The good news is that there are things you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor. One of the ways is by doing Kegel exercises regularly. These are highly recommended by health visitors and midwives for people who have had a baby, as a way to re-strengthen the area that may have been damaged or torn. But they are also a good idea for anyone.

According to Dr. Patel, Kegel exercises are easy to perform. “Squeeze down, as if you wanted to stop the flow of your urine. Hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat this 15 times,” he explains. “Don’t overdo it, once or twice a day is fine. Longer grips help strengthen muscles, short grips help reduce incontinence related to coughing or sneezing.

Some people use weights to help with pelvic floor exercises (Alamy/PA)

“Consider Kegel exercises with vaginal weights,” adds Dr. Patel. Silicone dumbbells come in a variety of sizes and, as he explains, are designed as “both prevention and cure,” helping to avoid future problems, too. For men, tensing and relaxing the area while doing things like stretches or hip thrusts will help improve your pelvic floor muscles.

Regular daily Kegel exercises, even if you just do them while sitting at your desk or waiting for the bus, will help ensure you have a strong pelvic floor and minimize your risk of incontinence both now and in the future.

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However, don’t be afraid to seek further help for any continence issues you may be facing. “If the condition doesn’t improve at all, talk to your GP. It may have caused the bowel, bladder, or womb to drop, so it helps to get it checked out,” says Dr. Patel. Things like Pilates and specialized physical therapy can also help, if you need a little more help.