Kegel refers to clench-and-release exercises meant to strengthen pelvic muscles. They play a crucial role in firming up the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction
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- 1 out of 5 women undergo pelvic issues post-delivery
- Kegel exercises are used to combat urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse
- Kegel refers to clench-and-release exercises meant to strengthen pelvic muscles
Globally, pelvic floor dysfunction remains one of the largest unaddressed issues in women’s healthcare. According to a report by Indian Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the prevalence of pelvic floor dysfunction in postpartum women was 20.7 per cent, out of which urinary incontinence was 10.6 per cent.
The study conducted by Dr Mili Rohilla and Dr Shakun Tyagi highlights that one out of five women undergo pelvic issues post-delivery, underscoring the need to address women’s pelvic health. In response to this, Kegel exercises have emerged as an essential tool to combat pelvic issues that include urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and other related conditions.
With factors like pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, constipation, ageing and lifestyle disorders – the pelvic muscles undergo strain and turn weaker over time. Kegels provide a proactive and non-invasive solution to these myriad problems not just for women but men as well.
To put it simply, Kegel refers to clench-and-release exercises meant to strengthen pelvic muscles. They play a crucial role in firming up the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. But, here’s a catch! Yasmin Karachiwala – A Mumbai-based celebrity fitness trainer emphasises that you cannot overdo Kegels as it may lead to more damage than good. “The trick is to put enough pressure to contract and expand the muscles and not contract them too tight!”
Who can benefit from Kegels?
1. Those who experience slight urine leakage during activities such as sneezing, laughing or coughing (stress incontinence).
2. People who encounter a strong, sudden urge to urinate just before releasing a significant amount of urine (urinary urge incontinence).
3. Anyone suffering from stool leakage (faecal incontinence).
Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises has been shown to effectively alleviate and prevent pelvic health issues, affirms Spoorthi S., a fitness expert from cult.fit. As more women become cognizant of the importance of pelvic floor health, the practice of Kegel exercises is becoming increasingly relevant given their sedentary ways of lifestyles. What’s good is that Kegels can be practiced anywhere, at any moment.
Locating the pelvic floor muscles for Kegels
Spoorthi shares that nailing Kegels means finding your pelvic floor muscles and working them the right way. One method to locate these muscles for women involves gently inserting a clean finger into the vaginal canal and engaging the vaginal muscles around the finger.
Another approach is to identify the muscles by attempting to interrupt the flow of urine midstream. The muscles involved in this action constitute the pelvic floor muscles. “Familiarise yourself with the sensation of these muscles contracting and relaxing,” remarks Spoorthi.
However, it's important to note that this method should be used solely for instructional purposes. It is not advisable to frequently interrupt urination or regularly perform Kegel exercises with a full bladder, as incomplete bladder emptying may increase the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs).
If uncertainty persists about whether the correct muscles have been located, consulting with a gynaecologist is recommended. They may suggest the use of a vaginal cone, an object inserted into the vagina, relying on pelvic floor muscles to maintain its position.
Another valuable technique for identifying and isolating pelvic floor muscles is biofeedback training. During this process, a medical professional will either insert a small probe into the vagina or place adhesive electrodes on the external area of the vagina or anus. Participants are then prompted to perform a Kegel, with a monitor displaying whether the correct muscles were engaged and the duration of the contraction.
Men often encounter similar challenges in pinpointing the correct set of pelvic floor muscles. To locate them, one technique involves attempting to contract the muscles in the rectum — ensuring that the muscles of the abdomen, buttocks, or thighs remain relaxed.
Another effective method is to engage the muscles responsible for preventing the release of gas. If difficulties persist, practising the interruption of urine flow can be helpful. Like with women, this proves to be a reliable method for identifying pelvic floor muscles, but it is advised not to make it a regular practice.
For men struggling to locate these muscles independently, biofeedback is a beneficial option. Seeking guidance from a doctor may also be worthwhile if self-identification proves challenging.
Step-by-step guide to performing Kegel exercises
Engage in contraction exercises by following these steps:
Choose your position
Begin by lying on your back to familiarise yourself with contracting the pelvic floor muscles. Once comfortable, practice the exercises while sitting and standing.
Contract and relax
Contract your pelvic floor muscles for 3 to 5 seconds, then relax for an equal duration. Repeat this contract/relax cycle 10 times. Ensure that other muscles, such as the abdomen, legs, or buttocks, remain relaxed. Detect any unwanted abdominal action by gently placing a hand on your belly.
Extend the time
Gradually increase the duration of both contractions and relaxations. Progress to 10-second cycles, focusing on controlled and deliberate movements.
Strive to incorporate at least 30 to 40 Kegel exercises into your daily routine. Distribute them throughout the day rather than performing them all at once. These inconspicuous exercises can be seamlessly integrated into moments like waiting at a stoplight, riding an elevator or standing in a grocery line.
Enhance your routine by incorporating short, 2 to 3 second contractions and releases, often referred to as "quick flicks." This variation adds diversity to your pelvic floor muscle training.
1. If you experience discomfort in your abdomen or back following a Kegel exercise session, it indicates incorrect execution. Always ensure that, even while contracting your pelvic floor muscles, the muscles in your abdomen, back, buttocks and sides stay relaxed.
2. Ensure to release tension in your pelvic floor muscles between each Kegel contraction. This interval is integral to the routine, and skipping it is crucial to prevent injury.
3. Keep the muscles in your stomach, back, thighs and buttocks relaxed during Kegel exercises, concentrating solely on your pelvic floor.
4. Maintain normal breathing and refrain from holding your breath during Kegels.
5. Avoid practising Kegel exercises while urinating, as this can potentially weaken the pelvic floor and pose risks to your kidneys and bladder.
6. Avoid excessive strain during Kegel exercises. Overworking the muscles may lead to fatigue, rendering them incapable of performing their essential functions