Pregnant and postpartum women know how beneficial Kegel exercises can be better than anyone. Kegel exercises work to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor by isolating them from surrounding muscle groups. They're often prescribed for recovery after giving birth, but there are also additional benefits to Kegels that have nothing at all to do with postpartum recovery.
According to WebMD, you should aim for three sets of 10 to 15 Kegels each every day. The muscles you're looking to contract are those that you use to stop the flow of urine when urinating. The goal is to engage these muscles without moving your abs, thighs, or glutes, and hold each Kegel for several seconds before relaxing. If you're not sure if you've gotten the right muscles involved, your gynecologist or other healthcare provider can help provide guidance.
Dr. Edwin Huang, a gynecologist at Massachusetts General Hospital told Everyday Health that he believes everyone should be doing their Kegels each and every day. Yes, men too. Exercising the muscles of your pelvic floor is just as important as workouts that focus on any of the other muscles in your body. If you add Kegels to your daily routine, you should begin to start noticing some of their benefits after a few weeks or months. Keep at it, these benefits are the real-deal.
1. Bladder Control As You Age
Whether or not you've recently had a baby, as you get older, your bladder and the muscles that help you control it gradually lose tone, as Kristi Latham, the pelvic health and lymphedema program director at Metro SportsMed Physical Therapy in New York, told the Oprah website. This change can make it difficult for women who don't regularly work their pelvic floor muscles to control their bladders, whether that means making it to the bathroom on time or no more leaks when you laugh, cough, sneeze, or jog.
2. Better Sex
Before baby or after baby (or independent of baby entirely), Kegels can lead to better sex. According to a 2003 study published in the International Urogynecology Journal, toning the muscles of your pelvic floor was found to improve sex drive and experience during sex and also a stronger orgasm.
3. Make Birth Easier
As it turns out, strengthening pelvic floor muscles before giving birth can actually make the process go more smoothly. According to research published in the BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal), women with strong pelvic floor muscles are in active labor for less time. Additionally, according to Dr. Sears's website, knowing how to relax the pelvic floor muscles reduces tearing during birth.
4. Less Chance Of Prolapse
While this may seem directly tied to postpartum recovery, all women are potentially at risk for organ prolapse, which occurs when organs in the pelvis sag because the muscles can't hold them up effectively. Age, weight, and genetics can all influence your risk of organ prolapse, according to the Cleveland Clinic, but women who lift weights are also at risk. Huang also told Everyday Health in the aforementioned article that women who work in jobs that require heavy lifting can also be at greater risk.