Though anyone who’s ever read a woman’s magazine has probably heard of Kegel exercises as an effective way to tighten the pelvic floor muscles and increase their enjoyment of sexual intercourse, they might well be surprised to find that this targeted exercise affects more than just their sex life—it can also benefit their health.
So just what benefits can Kegels offer? It may seem like a simple task, but the rewards of making Kegel exercise a regular part of your routine are innumerable, as studies have shown since 1948, when it was first recommended by Dr. Arnold Kegel, the gynecologist for which it was named.
Kegels are targeted contractions of the pelvic floor muscles; and while it might seem as though it would be simple enough to execute, it can actually be challenging for a woman with urinary incontinence, who already has difficulty in isolating these muscles.
In order to most easily understand how to perform Kegel exercises, try stopping the flow of urination; these are the muscles that must be contracted during the exercise. Ideally, Kegels should be performed three times per day, with 10-15 repetitions of timed contractions during each exercise. To begin, squeeze the muscles for three seconds, then relax them for three. It should be noted that in order to properly target the pelvic floor muscles, the thigh and stomach muscles should not tighten. Each week, one second should be added to the exercise until a length of ten seconds can be reached for each contraction of the muscles.
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For many women facing the challenges of life with urogynecological issues including urinary incontinence and pelvic pain, Kegel exercise has become their saving grace, bringing them relief that they might never have thought possible without surgical intervention. By contracting these muscles, which are called pubococcygeus muscles, they are also increasing their ability to control the urge to urinate, strengthening the pelvic floor, and may ultimately even prevent the occurrence of pelvic organ prolapse.
Stopping The Leak
Laughing, sneezing, coughing, and even exercise can put strain on weakened pelvic muscles, and that concern only increases with age. Many physicians will recommend Kegels as a first line of defense for their more mature patients, but they also consider it highly effective for women who have recently experienced childbirth. Both pregnancy and the birthing process weaken the pelvic floor muscles; and by regularly practicing Kegels, they can prevent bladder leaks when the urge to urinate strikes.
The pubococcygeus muscles provide support for the pelvic organs, and that support is greatly strengthened by practicing Kegels. They become firmer and more toned, which prevents the risk of future pelvic organ prolapse and may negate the need for surgical intervention.
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