Most women I know of a certain age, are cautious about exercises that make you jump excessively. Ditto laughing out of control, unexpected sneezes and coughing fits; they’re also likely to have half an eye on the nearest toilet when out and about too. Today, I’m going there friends …. we’re talking kegels! Since women make up 80% of people who struggle with bladder incontinence, kegels ladies, are your fanny’s friend!
Yep, getting older, having children and the hormonal and physical changes at menopause throw up some interesting challenges. But there are things you can do to save the embarrassment of what I like to call the ‘pissing-yourself pee’, or the ‘snee’…the ‘sneeze wee’. For those yet to make this acquaintance, a ‘snee’ is that awkward moment when you sneeze and think, eeeeep…
So what are kegels?
Developed by Dr Arnold H. Kegel in the 1940s, kegels are simple but effective pelvic floor exercises. They’re beneficial for anyone as they age and younger women who suffer with stress incontinence. The pelvic floor muscles are important because they help with control over both your bladder and bowel. It’s a kind of muscular ‘hammock’ that stretches pubic bone to the tailbone. It helps support the ah, toilet organs —yeah, I’m talking the poo and pee factories. Let’s face it, by midlife your pelvic floor has certainly earned its keep, and introducing a kegels regime now, can help save from a midlife prolapse later.
A weakened pelvic floor is not just an issue for women, there are implications for men as well, and is an important part of sexual health for both genders. Exercises for men may be slightly different to women, here we’re going to explore women’s exercises.
Where is it …
It’s not particularly sexy, but to understand where your pelvic floor is imagine you’re trying to stop a pee mid-stream. Goooo on, imagine … now, feel that? THEY are the muscles we’re working on.
How do you do it?
Luckily we women are great multi-taskers, because kegels involve both drawing up and clenching the pelvic floor at the same time.
Start with an empty bladder, then sit, stand or lay in a comfortable position with legs slightly apart. Draw up your pelvic floor for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds. Aim to work up to 10 seconds, holding and releasing with reps of ten each time. A good regime should see you do this three times a day, every day ladies!
There’s evidence to suggest that mixing up the duration of your kegels may give added benefits. Try incorporating short squeezes and releases, scattered through longer holds as per above. Persist with these exercises ladies, it may be several weeks or even months before you notice the change.
Unlike hitting the gym, kegels are free to do, fancy equipment is not required (although you can buy kegel eggs should you want something more tangible to work with) and you can do your kegels discretely anywhere. I’m talking the supermarket, at work, on the phone, or as you do dishes. No excuses then, right people? Now squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze!
Tracy is a media professional working in television. An enthusiastic explorer of the inter webs, she's held many different roles and has worked on documentary, reality and lifestyle television shows across almost two decades in the industry. Tracy also writes.