Pelvic Floor Muscles

Why exercise the pelvic floor muscles?

The pelvic floor muscles are like any other muscle in that they get stronger when you exercise them. This can be particularly beneficial if the muscles have become weak as a result of being overweight, pregnancy or giving birth. Exercising the pelvic floor muscles increases their strength and helps with problems such as urinary incontinence and poor bladder control. Pelvic floor exercises are also known as Kegel exercises.

Pelvic fitness in minutes per day

You can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by simply exercising for five minutes three times per day. Exercising the muscles helps to improve bladder control and strengthen the other muscles in the pelvic area. The pelvic area includes your hip bones and the tissue and organs in the pelvis. At the base of the pelvis are thick bands of muscle tissue which attach the side, front and back of the pelvic bone.

There are two major muscles in the pelvis and they are responsible for doing the majority of the work. These include a triangular-shaped muscle and a larger muscle which stretches across the legs in the same way as a hammock. These muscles are responsible for preventing urine and stools from leaking.

How to exercise your pelvic floor muscles

Find the right muscles

The most important thing to do before you start your pelvic floor exercises is locate the right muscles. If you are unsure what you are supposed to be doing, ask your doctor or practice nurse for advice and they will be able to show you the location of the muscles and advise on exercises. If you are pregnant your antenatal classes may cover pelvic floor exercises, and if they do not you can always ask your midwife. There are also several books and DVDs designed for pregnant women.

In order to exercise your pelvic floor muscles effectively you should use the following steps to locate the triangle and hammock muscles:

  • Try stopping the surge of urine at times when needing a wee and sat on a toilet. If this is done it means that you are using the correct muscles.
  • Squeeze the muscles that would be employed if you were attempting to stop yourself from passing wind. You should feel a pulling sensation if you are employing the correct muscles.
  • Lie down and place your finger within your vagina and squeeze the muscles you would use to try and stop urine from being released. You should feel tightness around your finger if you are using the correct muscles.

Do not squeeze other muscles

It is important that you do not squeeze other muscles when you contract your pelvic floor muscles as this can cause strain on your bladder. Do not hold your breath when you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles.

Repeat the exercises without overdoing it

It is beneficial to repeat the exercises to strengthen the muscles, but do not overdo it. Increase the number of reps gradually (gradually push yourself to the total of ten to fifteen reps at a time) and aim to pull the muscles in for a count of three.

Exercise three times a day

Exercise using these three positions: lying, sitting and standing. This will increase the strength of the muscles.

Be patient

As with all exercises the results are not obvious immediately and so you are advised to stick to it and be patient.

Use exercise aids

There are exercise aids such as special weights and biofeedback which can be used to strengthen the muscles. Ask your doctor, physiotherapist or nurse for advice.

'Hold the squeeze until after the sneeze'

Being prepared can help to reduce damage to the pelvic floor muscles. If you are about to sneeze, jump or lift something, prepare in advance and hold your muscles. As you get used to working your pelvic floor muscles the risk of accidents will be lower.

Points to remember

  • Weak pelvic floor muscles can contribute to bladder control problems.
  • Daily exercises (for five minutes and done three times each day) can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Pelvic floor muscles can improve bladder control.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse for advice about exercises to check that you are working the right muscles.
  • Hold your pelvic floor muscles when lifting, sneezing or jumping as this will prevent damage to the muscle tissue.
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