Kegel exercises, something referred to simply as “kegels”, are exercises that target the strength and endurance of the pelvic floor muscles. The muscles of the pelvic floor support the lower gastrointestinal tract organs including the small intestines, rectum, and urinary bladder, as well as the reproductive organs.
Kegel exercises are not exclusive to any particular sex or gender. Anyone with faculty over their lower body can perform these exercises and see benefits from regular practice.
How Kegel Exercises Work
The pelvic floor is lined with a series of connective tissue and muscle in the bowl of the pelvis. This structure is what holds the digestive and reproductive organs safely in place. When pelvic floor muscles are engaged, they help in controlling the flow of urine, passing gas, or having a bowel movement. They can also be involved during sexual activity and are the muscles that contract and relax during an orgasm.
Any weakening of the pelvic floor muscles can lead to problems such as losing control over one’s bladder and bowels or pelvic organ prolapse (i.e. when internal tissue falls out through one’s vagina). Doing kegel exercises is a means of combatting muscular weakness and promote greater pelvic health overall.
Reasons to Do Kegel Exercises
The pelvic floor muscles are subject to weakening over time or through great impacts such as pregnancy, childbirth, or significant weight gain. As such, one of the most common reasons to practice doing kegel exercises is to prevent or reduce urinary and rectal incontinence. They are also highly recommended for preventing pelvic organ or uterine prolapse.
Things that can contribute to both incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse include the reduction of estrogen production that accompanies menopause, pregnancy, childbirth through vaginal delivery, pelvic area surgeries such as a C-section, having a hysterectomy, frequently straining the pelvic area with activities such as coughing, sneezing, or boisterous laughter, and aging. Kegel exercises combat these weakening effects and gives one more agency over their own body.
The Sexual Benefits of Kegels
Some people will also choose to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles under the impression that it will improve their sexual satisfaction. The ways kegel exercises can enhance sexual activities include:
- Making it easier to relax the muscles around the vagina thereby increasing comfort during penetrative sex activities
- Improving blood circulation to the pelvic floor and increasing arousal responses
- Controlling the trajectory of their pleasure and orgasm experience
- Making it easier to reach orgasm
- Experiencing stronger orgasms
- Exercising greater control over one’s orgasms and ejaculation, especially while edging
- Enhancing both one’s own pleasure as well as the pleasure of a partner during partner sex activities
How to do Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are performed by isolating the pelvic floor muscles and deliberately contracting them. By contracting the pelvic floor muscles repetitively and/or holding the contraction at different intervals, one can improve both the muscular strength and muscular endurance of these muscles.
Once the initial ability to contract one’s pelvic floor muscles has been mastered, it is typically recommended to do 2-3 sessions daily. Kegels can be performed without any resistance, or with the aid of implements and insertable weights such as kegel balls and Ben Wa balls.
Most people who practice their kegels regularly will see an improvement in their condition within a few weeks. This is typically most obvious when urine leaks have been occurring and the rate at which it happens goes down or ceases. If symptoms do not improve, or if there is any concern prior to starting kegel exercises, it is recommended to consult a medical professional.