Yes, you can do Kegels on the bus.
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, are simple exercises involving repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor, in order to make it stronger.
But what are the benefits and how do you know you’re doing it correctly? We speak to Specialist Pelvic Health Physiotherapist Samantha Vincent about the importance of strengthening your pelvic floor to benefit everything from childbirth to enhanced sexual sensation:
What are pelvic floor exercises?
Just like all the muscles in your body, training your pelvic floor takes a little bit of work, but strengthening the muscles around the bladder, vagina or penis can be a huge benefit to both men and women.
‘The pelvic floor consists of layers of muscle that stretch from the coccyx (tailbone) to the pubic bone,’ explains Vincent. ‘Good pelvic floor muscles help support the organs in the pelvis and can help prevent descent of the bladder, uterus and bowel.’
Many factors can weaken the pelvic floor in women, including childbirth, ageing, weight gain and straining from constipation. The good news is, once you’ve mastered your pelvic floor exercises, you can do them anytime, anywhere — including sitting on the bus!
Pelvic floor exercise benefits
You don’t need to have a weak pelvic floor to reap the benefits; incorporating this simple move into your daily routine can help with the following:
- A strong core – your pelvic floor is connected to your lower back and abs.
- Preparation for pregnancyand recovery from childbirth.
- Enhanced sexual sensation including increased sensitivity and stronger orgasms.
- Regained or improved bladder control including stress urinary incontinence (SUI).
- Reduced risk of pelvic organ prolapse.
- Reduce the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
How do I find my pelvic floor muscles?
Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there. ‘Imagine you are squeezing the muscles around your back passage like you are holding in wind,’ explains Vincent. ‘Then pull up and forward to the muscles around the vagina, like you are holding in the wind and urine at the same time. You should feel a very small upwards and forwards movement. If you are pushing down, this is incorrect.’
To locate your pelvic floor muscles try the following:
✔️ Simply go for a pee and then try to stop the flow of urine. That clench and release feeling? Bingo, that’s your pelvic floor muscle.
✔️ Try to tighten the muscles around your vagina and back passage and lift up, as if you’re stopping yourself passing water and wind at the same time.
✔️ Once you’ve found the muscles, make sure you relax and empty your bladder completely.
✔️ If you’re not sure if you are exercising the right muscles, put a couple of fingers into your vagina. You should feel a gentle squeeze while doing the exercise.
How do I strengthen my pelvic floor?
You need to train your pelvic floor muscles through repetition, the same way you would train any muscle group at the gym. Try the following:
➡️ The movement is an upward and inward contraction, not a bearing-down effort.
➡️ When you first start doing Kegal exercises, check that you are doing them correctly. Put your hands on your abdomen and buttocks to make sure you can’t feel your belly, thighs, or buttocks moving.
➡️ You should be able to hold a conversation at the same time, so try counting aloud while you’re doing the exercises.
➡️ Resist the urge to tighten your tummy, thigh or buttock muscles – you’ll be exercising the wrong muscle groups.
How often should I do pelvic floor exercises?
How often you do kegels depends on your symptoms. ‘If you are in active treatment your physiotherapist will prescribe you reps and sets dependent on your strength and endurance after a pelvic floor examination,’ says Vincent.
‘If I was prescribing for the general public who have issues or antenatal or postnatal, I would recommend three times a day of 10sec x10 times, then 10 quick squeeze and release as a generic prescription,’ adds Vincent. ‘Any position is fine, if someone didn’t have any issues, I would recommend 10 secs x10, x10 fast three times a week for general maintenance.’
Are my pelvic floor exercises working?
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel the results immediately, these things take time. ‘If you do not have any symptoms you may not be able to tell if they are working, but they will be,’ says Vincent.
‘If you would like to know, you may need to book a 1:1 appointment with a specialist women’s health physiotherapist,’ she adds.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel the results immediately, these things take time.
‘If you have symptoms, it will depend on what they are, but you should see a gradual improvement in your symptoms, such as less leaking, more sensation during sex and less heaviness or dragging – which is a sign of prolapse. The muscles can take four months to hypertrophy (grow) – so be patient!’
You can test your muscle strength with the stop-start test. When you urinate, partially empty your bladder and then try to stop the flow of urine. If you can’t stop it completely, slowing it is a good start. Try the test every two weeks or so to see if your muscles are getting stronger. Don’t do the test more often than this, as it can harm the bladder.
Can I do pelvic floor exercises pregnant?
You should definitely do kegels when you’re pregnant, advises Vincent. ‘There are guidelines by NICE for antenatal care which recommend that during pregnancy pelvic floor exercises be performed at least three times a day,’ she explains. ‘They are very important!’
If you need guidance, speak to a specialist physiotherapist. ‘During pregnancy there is a combined effect of increased weight on the pelvic floor, as the pelvic floor supports and helps to suspend the uterus, and also hormonal effect of progesterone and relaxin which are produced and make soft tissue around the pelvis soft and stretchy to allow room for birth, which then makes the pelvic fascia lax and less supported.
‘The weight of the baby and pregnancy means the pelvic floor has to be strong to counteract the effects of the increased weight,’ she adds. ‘If not strong enough, the woman is likely to experience incontinence or prolapse symptoms. These symptoms are very common and physiotherapists get lots of referrals for new onset of these symptoms in pregnancy. Then it’s like a double whammy – the woman is getting heavier so she needs to then be doubly as strong to counteract the symptoms!’