The pelvic floor muscles are the group of muscles that support the bladder, uterus and the bowels. The pelvic floor exercises or the Keegel exercises as they are often called, help strengthen these muscles to keep the effects of stress factors (like pregnancy, childbirth, age, etc) at bay and guard against incontinence which is one of the major effects of loose pelvic muscles.
Pelvic floor exercises are simple exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime and none will be any the wiser. It will take a little practice to identify and isolate your pelvic floor muscles, but once done, you can exercise them every day in less than five minutes! Here are some easy steps to follow to train your pelvic floor muscles.
- Identify the pelvic floor muscles: To identify your pelvic muscles, try to stop mid-steam while urinating. If you are successful in doing that, then you have identified your muscles in the front. Now clench the muscles as if you are stopping yourself from passing wind. These are the pelvic muscles in the back. When you squeeze the front and back muscle together, there is a squeeze and lift effect which is the equivalent of one Keegel. Make sure than the other muscles in the vicinity, like that of your thighs, buttocks or the abdomen, are relaxed.
- Perfect the technique: To begin with. Sit comfortably on a chair or lie on the floor on your back. Now squeeze your pelvic floor muscles for 3 seconds and release them for three seconds. Keep a hand over your abdomen to ensure that it is not clenched. You are advised to breathe normally throughout. Do not attempt to hold your breath while squeezing the muscles.
- Practice to ensure that you can do the exercises at a faster as well as a slower rate: For faster Keegels, you should hold for a second and then relax for a second. About 7-10 repetitions thrice a day should do the trick. For slower Keegels, you should aim to squeeze for 10 seconds and then relax for 10 seconds. Slower rate of Keegels are especially effective in reducing back pain post-childbirth.
How often should these exercises be done? When should I start?
If you can do three exercise sets of 7-10 repetitions a day, it is ideal. But don’t despair if you forget because you can do them whenever you remember. Generally Keegels are advised during pregnancy, but you can do it before pregnancy to strengthen your muscles as well as post-childbirth to bring the muscles back to their original state. It is good to make these exercises a part of your daily routine as they help in age-related incontinence problems.
Find more information on pelvic floor exercises for women