Health

What They Are, Health Benefits, and How to Do Them

Kegels may be helpful for both men and women. If your doctor recommends Kegel exercises, you can look forward to these benefits.

Kegel Exercises Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles

Kegel exercises are designed to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which support certain organs. “A healthy pelvic floor is critical, as these muscles provide a flexible, hammock-like support to major organs like the bladder, uterus, and rectum and contract or close around the urethra and rectum to hold in urine, feces, and gas,” says Dr. Grisales.

According to a systematic review of 18 randomized controlled trials, Kegels can also treat pelvic organ prolapse, a condition in which one or more pelvic organs (vagina, uterus, bladder, and rectum) sag, which affects up to 50 percent of women over the age of 50.

But treatment for pelvic organ prolapse involves more than doing Kegels. People with pelvic organ prolapse work with a physical therapist who will assess their condition, create an individualized treatment plan, and provide feedback during follow-up appointments. Some people may need surgery if physical therapy doesn’t relieve symptoms, notes Harvard Health.

Kegel Exercises Lower Urinary Incontinence Risk

If you’ve ever peed a little after sneezing or laughing, you’re not alone. This is a sign of urinary incontinence (urine leakage), a condition that affects about 30 percent of women aged 30 to 60, notes the National Association for Incontinence.

Pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, making it more difficult to control urine flow. Pelvic floor muscles also tend to weaken with age.

Kegels may help.

“Pelvic floor exercises have been shown to reduce postpartum incontinence in women who have recently had a baby and can also prevent and treat incontinence in women over 65,” says Leslie Rickey, MD, MPH, a urogynecologist with Yale Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, who specializes in pelvic floor problems in women.

In one study, women with urinary incontinence who followed a Kegel exercise program for three months saw significant improvements in urine leakage and reported a better quality of life.

“Incontinence symptoms increase with age, but even young women in their late teens and twenties report incontinence, so there is opportunity for prevention strategies starting earlier in life,” Dr. Rickey adds.

The National Association for Incontinence notes that up to 5 percent of men have urinary incontinence, and men can also see benefits from Kegel exercises, according to Mayo Clinic.

Kegel Exercises Improve Bowel Control

A strong pelvic floor supports bladder health, reducing the likelihood of urinary leakage — the same is true of the bowels.

Pelvic floor muscles support the rectum, which is part of the bowels. Kegel exercises can strengthen muscles in the anus, pelvic floor, and rectum, making it easier to hold in gas and stool, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). One clinical trial found that pelvic floor exercises significantly improved fecal incontinence and quality of life in men.

More research is needed to understand whether Kegel exercises can reduce fecal incontinence in women before and after childbirth, according to a meta-analysis of 46 trials.

Kegel Exercises Improve Pregnancy Labor and Recovery

There isn’t much research on the potential benefits of Kegel exercises during pregnancy, but your doctor may recommend them to help with labor and recovery.

During pregnancy, the increasing weight of a growing baby can place a heavy load on the pelvic floor muscles. Kegel exercises can improve your ability to support that load, per Cleveland Clinic.

Strengthening pelvic floor muscles with Kegels can also help you push during childbirth. Afterward, Kegels can help you regain bladder control and heal the perineum (the thin layer of skin between the vagina and anus), per the American Pregnancy Association.

Kegel Exercises May Boost Sex

Since Kegels can tighten the muscles around the vagina, some women report greater sexual satisfaction after doing Kegels, Wetter says.

Pelvic floor exercises may make sex better for men, too. Men who do Kegels may have greater control over ejaculation and experience improved orgasm sensation, per the Cleveland Clinic.

RELATED: Why Kegel Exercises Just Aren’t Enough to Address Pelvic Dysfunction

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