By Kevin Deerin
Hope through strength
If you are one of the 33% of women who deal with mild to moderate incontinence, it can be extremely taxing to deal with the uncertainty of potential leaks, especially when the most mundane daily tasks can feel like navigating a minefield.
However, did you know that strengthening your pelvic floor through a few rounds of simple exercises targeting your pelvic floor can help with leaks and let you own your incontinence?
Your pelvic floor is a complex system of tissues that help support your bladder and uterus, somewhat like a hammock. Through pregnancy, childbirth and aging, your pelvic floor goes through a lot of stress, and can begin to sag or atrophy and lead to incontinence.
That atrophy doesn’t need to be permanent. Your body is incredibly resilient, and with a consistent routine of pelvic floor exercise, you can see improvement in your incontinence symptoms and take back control of your life.
Kegels: Simple but effective
Popularized by the American gynecologist Arnold Kegel in 1948, Kegel exercises involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles in a series of short or long bursts to build strength and improve bladder control.
To that point, in a 10-year study published in the British Journal of Urology International, researchers found that in a group of patients using Kegel exercises to improve their incontinence, 53% found a daily routine to have been markedly effective in improving their symptoms and quality of life.
Seems too good to be true, but as with most exercise routines, the key to success with a Kegel routine to improve incontinence symptoms is consistency. In order to really start seeing results, you’ll need to commit to several rounds of exercises daily for weeks or months. That might sound daunting, but, as we outline below, Kegels are quite easy to do and can be done while sitting at a desk, watching TV, driving, or even laying in bed.
How to get started with a Kegel routine
Here’s how to do a round of Kegel exercises:
- Tighten and relax the muscles you use to control the flow of urine. Imagine you’re holding it on a long car trip waiting to pull into a rest station. Those are the muscles you should be aiming for.
- Once you feel comfortable isolating those muscles, contract them for 3 seconds.
- Relax your pelvic floor muscles for 3 seconds.
- Complete 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions per day
As I mentioned above, Kegel exercises are very discreet and easy to do just about anywhere. So you can complete your routine while watching TV, doing a crossword puzzle, on a drive to the grocery store, or while having your morning coffee! The important thing is to stay consistent with your routine.
Feel free to reach out for help
If you’re having trouble with your Kegel routine, or not noticing improvement with your incontinence symptoms after a period of 3-4 weeks, please get in touch with your primary care provider to discuss ways to improve your pelvic floor exercises. Your doctor may be able to offer suggestions for more intensive routines that can help you in the long run.
About the Author
Kevin Deerin has worked with Wearever Incontinence for over 12 years. During that time, he has researched incontinence causes, products and ways to help improve the lives of those who live with incontinence. Over his years of research, he has spoken with thousands of caregivers and people living with incontinence.