Kegel Exercises: Definition, Health Advantages, and Technique

Many people don’t take any time to heed their pelvic floor. This region does play many roles that make it worth another look. 

“The pelvic floor is a bowl of muscles that form the bottom of the pelvic cavity and support the uterus, bladder, and rectum, and they help us control bodily functions like urination, defecation, and vaginal delivery,” says Wendy Goodall McDonald, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Chicago who is board-certified.

 The same way that works out the arms and shoulders have to work out the muscles of the pelvic floor and enable them to be kept healthy and fit. This helps them to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. The support to be given to pelvic floor health should be done through Kegel exercises. 

This is what Kegels are, their benefits, and how to do them.

What Are Kegel Exercises?

“According to gynecologist Amy Wetter, MD, a board-certified physician at Northside Women’s Specialists in Atlanta, Kegel exercises are designed to fortify your pelvic floor. By doing Kegel exercises, you are supposed to tighten and then relax the muscles that help you control the way urine leaves your body, like when you’re about to stop peeing and then resume,” says the Cleveland Clinic. According to the Cleveland Clinic, Kegel exercises may help problems like urine leakage (wetting) and straining out gas or stool that’s triggered by weak muscles in the pelvic floor. These problems are often experienced by women who just gave birth and by the elderly. Pelvic strength may benefit women for recovery too, and birthing. Moreover, it can make sex more pleasurable for you.

There is no need for equipment, nor do you have to join the gym for Kegel exercises. You can carry out Kegel exercises while sitting, standing, or lying down and at any time and place. That’s because Kegel exercises can be done anytime and anywhere since they are easy to do. However, Dr. Wetter advises, “It is supposed to practice Kegel exercises every day.” “To see results, you need a consistent and repeated activity, just like with any muscle in the body.”

It’s usually recommended that Kegel exercises should be done three times a day. According to the Mayo Clinic, aim for three sets of 10 to 15 reps.

However, not all people can benefit from Kegel exercises. “Kegels are not one-size-fits-all exercises,” says Tamara Grisales, MD, a board-certified gynecologist in female pelvic medicine at the Center for Women’s Pelvic Health at UCLA in Los Angeles. “It’s true that people with weak pelvic floors and urine leaks will benefit from Kegels, but they’re not universally beneficial.” For example, she explains, Kegel exercises may not help women experience pain during sex. Kegel exercises may strengthen the vaginal muscles overtightly, which could cause pain during sexual activity.

Speak with your doctor before you add Kegel exercises to your routine.

Potential Health Benefits of Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises may benefit both genders. If your physician advises Kegel exercises, anticipate these advantages..

Kegel Exercises Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles

Kegel exercises are designed to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which support certain organs. “A healthy pelvic floor is critical,” says Dr. Grisales, “as these muscles provide a flexible, hammock-like support to major organs like the bladder, uterus, and rectum and contract or close around the urethra and rectum to hold in urine, feces, and gas.” 

A systematic review of 18 randomized controlled trials showed Kegels can also treat pelvic organ prolapse, a condition in which one or more of the pelvic organs (vagina, uterus, bladder, and rectum) sag, which affects up to 50 percent of women over the age of 50. 

However, treatment for pelvic organ prolapse involves much more than just doing Kegels. People who are suffering from pelvic organ prolapse then work with a physical therapist who assesses his condition, creates an individualized treatment plan, and provides feedback during follow-up appointments. If physical therapy does not relieve symptoms, some people may need surgery, as Harvard Health notes.

Kegel Exercises Lower Urinary Incontinence Risk

If at any point you have ever had a small leak when sneezing or laughing, then you are not alone. This is actually a sign of urinary incontinence, or leakage of urine, that would directly affect about 30% of women aged 30 to 60, as mentioned by the National Association for Incontinence.

 The weakening of the muscles supporting the pelvic floor is responsible for hardening the ability to control urine flow, mainly due to pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. Most of these muscles are those of women aged 65 and above, as women have a higher probability of weakness in the pelvic floor as they grow older. 

Kegels may help. 

“Pelvic floor exercises have been shown to reduce postpartum incontinence in women who have just had a baby and can also prevent and treat incontinence in women over 65,” says Dr. Leslie Rickey, MD, MPH, a urogynecologist at Yale Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. She specializes in pelvic floor problems in women. 

After following a Kegel exercise program for three months, women who did such exercises showed improvement in urine leakage, and 85% reported a better quality of life. 

“Incontinence symptoms increase with age, but even young women in their late teens and twenties report incontinence, so there is opportunity for prevention strategies starting earlier in life,” Dr. Rickey notes. 

According to Mayo Clinic, the National Association for Incontinence notes that up to 5% of men have urinary incontinence, and men can also see benefits from Kegel exercises.

Kegel Exercises Improve Pregnancy Labor and Recovery

There isn’t much research on the potential benefits of Kegel exercises during pregnancy; your doctor may recommend them to help with labor and recovery. 

According to Cleveland Clinic, during pregnancy, the rising weight of the growing baby places a big burden on the muscles of the pelvic floor. This muscle can be strengthened with exercises, such as Kegels. 

Another advantage of Kegel exercises is that they can help you push in childbirth. Afterward, exercises are able to help you rebuild perineal muscles and are sometimes advised, per the American Pregnancy Association.

Kegel Exercises May Boost Sex

Since Kegels can tighten the muscles around the vagina, some women report greater sexual satisfaction after doing Kegels, Wetter says.

Pelvic floor exercises may make sex better for men, too. Men who do Kegels may have greater control over ejaculation and experience improved orgasm sensation, per the Cleveland Clinic.