Sexual Health Q&A
Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder and control urine flow.
Pelvic floor muscles can weaken for a variety of reasons:
• Prostate or gynecologic surgery
• Weight gain
• Overactive bladder
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Chronic pelvic pain
• Ulcerative colitis
• Crohn's disease
People with weakened pelvic floor muscles may have trouble with incontinence (leaking urine or fecal matter) and sexual function. Kegel exercises are an easy way to tone these muscles and keep them strong.
Both men and women can benefit from Kegel exercises. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles helps urine stay in the bladder, which may ease incontinence symptoms.
Kegel exercises can have sexual benefits as well. Some men find that their erectile function improves after doing Kegel exercises for some time, as strengthening can improve erections. They may have more intense orgasms. Relaxation may improve control for premature ejaculation, too.
For women, Kegel exercises help relax the vagina, making penetration more comfortable. They might also improve vaginal lubrication, allow more blood to flow into the genitals, increase sexual arousal, and make it easier to reach orgasm.
Kegel exercises are easy to do. The first step is finding the correct muscles. This can be done while urinating:
• Temporarily stop the flow of urine.
• Notice which muscles are tightened. Women should feel this in the vagina; men in the anus.
• Be sure to not tighten muscles in the abdomen, chest, thighs, and buttocks.
After urinating, it may help to place a finger in the vagina (for women) or rectum (for men) to help locate the pelvic floor muscles.
From there, Kegel exercises are fairly straightforward:
• Empty the bladder.
• Contract or “squeeze” the pelvic floor muscles for 3 to 8 seconds.
• Release and relax the muscles for 10 seconds.
Doing three sets of ten Kegel exercises each day is a common routine. It can take time to reach this level, however, so be patient with yourself and do what you can to build gradually.
During Kegel exercises, breathe as you normally do. Don’t hold your breath. Take care not to contract the muscles in the stomach, abdomen, thighs, or buttocks.
Men and women using a catheter should not do Kegel exercises until the catheter is removed and a physician gives approval.
Some people find it helpful to “schedule” their Kegel exercises when they do a routine activity, like brushing their teeth in the morning or watching TV at night. In this way, the exercises become a habit.
If you have questions about Kegel exercises - especially if you are unsure about finding your pelvic floor muscles - see your doctor.