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Guide for Doing Pelvic Floor & Kegel Exercises

Two woman outside on yoga mats laughing and exercising

A guide for developing a pelvic floor exercise routine, also known as Kegels, to help treat incontinence and other types of issues related to the pelvic floor muscles.

Many women – in fact, 1 in 3 – experience some form of urinary incontinence. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can greatly increase your ability to avoid urine leakage throughout the day. Pelvic floor exercises for women can make those leaks more manageable, helping you regain control of your bladder, your life and your self-esteem.

What Is Your Pelvic Floor?

To locate your pelvic floor muscles, try to stop your urination midstream. If you succeed, you've found the right muscles. These are the same muscles you use when you're avoiding passing gas, as the pelvic floor also supports the rectum.

Kegel exercises are easy, and you can do them anytime, anywhere. Just follow this simple how–to guide to start strengthening your pelvic floor muscles right now!

How to do Kegel Exercises

You can start toning your pelvic muscles by doing Kegel exercises as you read. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Squeeze the muscles that you use to stop your urine flow. Make sure to focus only on your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful to squeeze the correct muscles and avoid squeezing the muscles of the leg, buttock or abdomen. Now pretend your vagina is a lift and you are going upwards.
  2. Hold for at least 4 seconds. The more often you do this, the “higher” you can go. Try holding for up to 10 seconds.
  3. Slowly exhale through your mouth and gradually release the hold. Relax and contract your pelvic floor muscles 10–20 times in a row at least 3 times a day.
  4. You can test your pelvic floor muscles with a simple stop–start test. When using the bathroom, begin to urinate and cut off the flow by contracting the muscles. If you experience better control than before, you know the pelvic floor exercises are working.

Switch Up the Length of Kegel Exercises

To maximize the benefits of your pelvic floor workout, exercise the muscles with both long and short squeezes, repeating until the muscles feel tired. There are two types of exercise lengths:

  • LONG SQUEEZES: Tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold for several seconds and then relax for the same length of time. Start with 5 seconds and work your way up to 10 seconds as you get practice.
  • SHORT SQUEEZES: Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for one second, then relax.

Making Pelvic Exercises a Routine

Try to work Kegel exercises into existing routines and everyday tasks to help make your pelvic floor stronger. That way, you can use it when you need it.

  • Driving. As long as your Kegel exercises don’t distract you from driving, contract your pelvic floor muscles then release them while on your way to the grocery store, as you leave the bank, or in route to any other errands you run regularly.
  • Cooking. Try to focus on your pelvic floor muscles as you carry out simple, routine cooking tasks, like stirring a pot or washing dishes.
  • Watching TV. Have favorite programs you never miss? Do some Kegel exercises as you view – no one around you will even know you’re busy re–claiming control of your bladder!
  • At work. Do you work at a desk for extended periods of time? Use any downtime to work out those pelvic floor muscles.
  • Reading. Whether it’s the morning paper or that newest novel you can’t put down, reading as you do Kegel exercises can help your repetitions fly by.
  • Bedtime. As you wind down each night, finish your last set of Kegel exercises before drifting off to sleep. If you keep at it, nightmares of bed pads may be a thing of the past.

Additional Exercises that Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

Though you may not feel it, your pelvic floor is activated in conjunction with other muscles when performing certain movements, and not just during exercises that specifically target the pelvic floor. Here are a few body weight exercises that help strengthen those important little muscles. They don’t require any equipment and are easy to do in the comfort of your home.

Are the Kegel Exercises Working?

How do you know if the Kegel exercises and other exercises used to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles are working? After 4–6 weeks of active Kegels and working out your pelvic floor muscles regularly, you may start to notice an improvement in your urinary incontinence symptoms. This includes improved bladder and bowel control, such as reduced urine leakage and less frequent trips to the restroom.

If you’ve made a habit of Kegel exercises and don’t notice an improvement in your sensitive bladder symptoms, it’s time to talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend combining these exercises with other treatments like sensitive bladder training or other medications, devices or procedures to help you manage your incontinence.

Other Methods for Improving Bladder Control

If you’ve tried and have trouble doing Kegel exercises, you may want to see a physical therapist who specializes in women’s health, specifically around strengthening the pelvic floor. A physical therapist may suggest biofeedback. Biofeedback is a training technique that may be useful if you have problems locating the right muscles. With biofeedback, you're connected to electrical sensors that help you receive information (feedback) about your body (bio). This feedback helps you focus on making subtle changes in your body, such as flexing your pelvic muscles more successfully.

Try a bladder friendly diet
Avoid foods like caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, carbonated beverages and spicy foods. All of these can alter the acidity of your urine, making your urinary incontinence symptoms worse.

Stay hydrated
While drinking too much of anything will create an urge to go, a critical tool for dealing with incontinence is to drink plenty of water. Sure, this may sound counterintuitive. After all, if you feel like you have to urinate, it might make sense to limit your fluid intake. However, not drinking enough water results in highly concentrated urine, which will irritate your bladder. Be sure to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.

Get moving
Weight management can help alleviate the symptoms of adult incontinence, as extra pounds put pressure on the bladder’s muscles, which can lead to stress incontinence. Simply going for more walks around the block is an easy, straight-forward way to get moving.

Now that you know how to do Kegel exercises and other exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, check out these related articles.