In the same way as all the other muscles in your body, your pelvic floor muscles need to be exercised to keep them strong and toned. However, they are not exercised through traditional exercises such as running. In fact, high impact exercises such as running and gymnastics cause damage to the pelvic floor muscles, weakening them further.
Strengthening you pelvic floor muscles is especially important if you:
- are overweight or obese
- are menopausal or postmenopausal
- suffer from a pelvic organ prolapse or are genetically more likely to experience one
- are trying to conceive or are pregnant
- have had one or more children
- have a lung disease which results in a chronic cough
- are a smoker
- take part in high impact exercises
- are frequently constipated
- have undergone a pelvic surgery
- have a job which involves lifting heavy weights
- have a job which involves spending lots of time on your feet e.g. nurses
- are at a higher genetic risk of developing any pelvic floor disorder
- experience urinary or faecal incontinence
- have tumors within your pelvis
This may seem like a long list, but even if you don't match any of the points above you still need to keep your pelvic floor strong because you rely on it so heavily for simple things such as core strength and posture. To learn more about the benefits of having a strong pelvic floor, visit the Benefits of Pelvic Floor Exercises page.
Common Myths About Pelvic Floor Exercises
Most of us have heard about pelvic exercises but for one reason or another, we haven't tried them out or aren't really sure if they are for us. We're here to tell you that they aren't scary and they are for everyone!
Here are just some of the common myths people say about pelvic floor exercises:
- They are easy to do - Unfortunately, Kegel exercises are not easy to do. They can be done manually or with an electric toner to ensure you are targeting the correct muscles and are doing the correct work to rest ratio. If you over-exercise the pelvic floor muscles and don't give them time to rest this will do more harm than good!
- They don't work - You've tried doing your Kegel exercises but they didn't work, so now you don't bother. Like other muscles the pelvic floor takes time to strengthen, you wouldn't go to the gym once, do a few bicep curls and expect to have toned arms would you? You need to give Kegel exercises time. We recommend 12 weeks of daily exercise for you to notice a difference and we offer a free 12 Week Kegel Exercise Plan to help you achieve it.
- You are too old or too young to do them - It is never the wrong time to start doing your Kegel exercises - start today! Whatever your age, doing Kegel exercises will help you keep your pelvic floor muscles in tip top condition.
- You can avoid having to do them if you regularly stop the flow of urine when on the loo - This is a dangerous myth. Studies show that stopping the flow of urine actually trains your bladder to not be able to fully empty. So we recommend leaving your pelvic floor muscles until you have emptied your bladder.
- Men don't need to do them - Men have a pelvic floor as well, and it has many of the same functions such as bladder and bowel control, and the enhancing sex. To learn more about the Male Pelvic Floor, visit the page.
Briffa, K. Jacques, A. Tangyotkajohn, U. Thompson, J. Tinetti, A. Weir, N. (2018). International Urogynecology Journal. Help-seeking behaviour for pelvic floor dysfunction in women over 55: drivers and barriers. [online] 29, p1-9. [viewed 10/04/18]. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00192-018-3618-2
Dwyer, P. L. Karmakar, D. (2018). An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. High impact exercise may cause pelvic floor dysfunction. [online] p 614. [viewed 10/04/18]. Available from: https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1471-0528.15025
National Childbirth Trust. (2014). Pelvic floor exercises how-to guide: Pregnancy & beyond. [online] National Childbirth Trust, 2014. [viewed 03/04/2018]. Available from: https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/pelvic-floor-exercises-during-and-after-pregnancy
NHS. (2017). What are pelvic floor exercises? [online] NHS Trust, 2017. [viewed 10/04/18] Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1063.aspx?categoryid=52