While many of us think to exercise our bodies, faithfully doing cardio and more… when was the last time you exercised your pelvic muscles?
Huh? Maybe you don’t even know where those are!
And even if you do, if your answer to, “when do you exercise them” is never or infrequently, you are putting your health and happiness at risk. Really!
Or maybe you DO exercise your pelvic muscles (congratulations!) but perhaps you have been doing them incorrectly all of these years. What?
In either case, it is important for you to know WHY doing these exercises is so important.. Here’s 3 great reasons to convince you!
Stop the embarrassment of accidental leakage when you laugh, cough, squat, garden, bike-ride, have sex…
It happens to many of us…as early as our 20’s but more so with the passage of time. It’s all about changing hormones as we age. The decline in many of our key sexual hormones affects our muscles and tissues in the “down-under”, which can result in annoying, embarrassing tinkling at the most inconvenient times.
In particular, the pelvic floor muscles that support your bladder, uterus, rectum, and urethral tube (the tube that empties urine out of your bladder) weaken as key hormones such as estrogen and DHEA decline.
And that tinkling is actually an early warning system for you to take action and strengthen those pelvic muscles, or symptoms can get worse. Much worse, as in maybe eventually requiring surgery.
On top of natural hormone changes weakening these important muscles, simply living our lives can also rack up increased risk factors for urinary leakage issues. Have a baby? Are you overweight? A smoker? Have diabetes or another chronic disease? All of these increase your risk.
The good news is that just like with the other muscles in your body, there are ways to strengthen your pelvic muscles and decrease or even halt many urinary leakage issues through doing the right exercises on a regular basis.
Regain your feminine (or male!) confidence!
Yes, men can suffer from weak pelvic muscles as well (and can benefit from pelvic floor exercises, too).
And women…as a gynecologist, let me just tell you that research – and my patients – would tell you that all of this tinkling has a direct – and very negative – emotional effect. We are embarrassed. We make decisions to stop doing the things we love, our favorite sport (mine is horseback riding), jogging, gardening (I mean a tinkle with every squat gets really old)…and yes, even making love.
Research has actually shown that relationships suffer and even depression can rear its ugly head, when women suffer from weakened pelvic muscles, leaking and other vaginal symptoms associated with aging and hormone decline.
Increase your sexual pleasure (and defy gravity, too! what?)
Yes, strong pelvic muscles may help improve your orgasms! Exercising these vital muscles increases blood flow and nerve supply to surrounding tissues.
But even if you aren’t having sex, your pelvic health is critical to how well your muscles withstand gravity!
As your pelvic muscles weaken something called pelvic prolapse can also start to occur. This is when other organs, such as your uterus and bladder, actually start protruding down into your vagina.
Your pelvic floor muscles act like a supportive hammock of sorts, see the photo? If this hammock weakens, you can see how organs start to push down (and you can see how being overweight can make it worse…anything that causes that downward abdominal pressure, including coughing a lot if you are a smoker).
In my experience most women have weakened muscles after age 40.
I routinely have told my patients and clients from pregnancy onward to regularly exercise their pelvic floor.
The best exercise for this is something called Kegels. You’ve probably heard of them, but DO YOU DO THEM on a regular basis? And perhaps as important…do you do them correctly?
Well, how would you know?
If your hammock isn’t strong you are likely to have urinary leakage and pelvic prolapse issues
A lot of women don’t do Kegels on a regular basis. And many women do Kegel exercises incorrectly!
How to do the perfect Kegels for the best results
Here’s how to do the perfect Kegel for the greatest benefit.
In this short video you will learn how to do Kegel exercises as well as how to test to see if you are doing them properly. There are 3 simple steps, and pay special attention to the breathing.
Step 1: Focusing on the area between your vagina and anus (called the perineal body), pull up on the exhale. Contract those pelvic floor muscles.
Step 2: Hold this contraction for a count of three. Then relax. You’ll eventually want to increase this count, up to eight.
Step 3: While you are holding this contraction, try and breathe normally and relax.
These steps should be repeated. Do three sets of eight lifts, three to five times per week.
A small number of women may not need to focus on Kegel exercises as they may have the opposite issue of pelvic floor muscle weakness; they may have tense or hyperactive muscles.
A self-test you can do is to try and stop your urine midstream when you are peeing.
If you can’t stop your urine stream, your pelvic floor muscles are likely not as strong as they should be. Note that this isn’t a test you should repeat too often (and definitely don’t do this as an exercise routine!). Just do it to initially self-test yourself… and maybe repeat in a month if you implement Kegels. And then do the self-test infrequently after that.
A vulvar cream containing DHEA can also help
DHEA is a natural hormone in our body that is important to the integrity of skin, muscle, and bone and also has a role in maintaining libido. Many people take oral DHEA to improve energy level and mental alertness, but here I am talking about a cream that is applied around the vulva.
DHEA applied locally at the vagina can improve the musculature of the deeper layers of the vagina (decreasing symptoms of urinary leakage and pelvic prolapse), as well as improving vaginal dryness and irritation, vaginal and vulva discomfort, and even libido.
Take care of the beautiful feminine you!