Remembering to do Kegel exercises falls on many women’s to-do list.
While they may be easy to forget, giving your pelvic floor a work out helps strength the muscles around the bladder, vagina, penis and anus.
Practicing for just a few seconds a day could ward off incontinence, treat prolapse after childbirth and even make sex better.
Urinary incontinence affects more than a third (34%) of women in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) reports.
Women are thought to be worse affected due to pregnancy, childbirth and the menopause all impacting our ability to control our bladder.
In an episode of Yahoo UK’s podcast White Wine Question Time, Girls Aloud star Kimberly Walsh joked she had to “hold her pelvic floor” while jumping in the West End show Big: The Musical.
“Could you imagine a leading lady in a puddle in the middle of the stage?”, she said.
Clinical examinations also show prolapse – when an organ in the pelvis slips and bulges into the vagina – affects up to half of women to some extent, NICE adds.
While both men and women should be keeping their pelvic muscles strong, some may particularly benefit from incorporating Kegel exercises into their daily routine.
These include those who leak urine when coughing, sneezing or laughing; have a sudden urge to urinate before “wetting themselves”; and those who leak stools, according to Mayo Clinic.
The good news is, strengthening the pelvic floor can prevent – or treat – all the above.
How to do Kegel exercises
First, identify the pelvic muscles you need to work by trying to stop the flow of urine while on the toilet, the NHS reports.
Note regularly stopping urine midstream can prevent the bladder emptying entirely, leading to infections.
Once you have a handle on these muscles, squeeze them 10-to-15 times in a row. This can be done while sitting uncomfortably in any setting.
Do not hold your breath or tighten any part of your body while working your pelvic floor.
For those struggling to master the technique, imagine you are sitting on marble and have to lift your pelvic muscles off the cold floor, the Mayo Clinic reports.
Once you’re used to it, hold each squeeze for a few seconds.
Over time, add some more squeezes, being careful not to over do it.
You should notice changes within a few months, according to the NHS.
Carry on with the exercises, even if you think you no longer need to.
While it is best not to do these on toilet, they can be discreetly performed at your desk or while sitting on the sofa.
To help make the exercise part of your routine, try doing it every time you boil the kettle or brush your teeth. There are also some apps available to download for smart phones that send reminders.
With prolapse common after childbirth, the NHS recommends pregnant women and those hoping to conceive start pelvic floor workouts straight away.
When it comes to sex, having a strong pelvic floor increases a woman’s sensitivity “down there”, encouraging stronger orgasms.
While men are less at risk due to them not carrying children, pelvic floor exercises can ease erectile dysfunction, according to the NHS.
Surgery to remove the prostate, and conditions like diabetes and an overactive bladder, can also leave men at risk of leaking.
The Mayo Clinic therefore recommends they identify muscles that stop urine midstream or those that tighten when passing gas.
Men should similarly squeeze these muscles for around three seconds, before relaxing.
Your GP can help if you are having trouble mastering the technique, or need further assistance for your incontinence or prolapse.