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How to do kegel exercises: The 6 physical and psychological benefits of kegels

Quick Kegel exercise routine to strengthen your pelvic floor

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Welsh Rugby Union women’s team Head Physio, Jo Perkins, has introduced Kegel training three times per week to help improve the players’ physical and psychological wellbeing. Up to 84 percent of women in the UK suffer from incontinence and kegels are a great way to treat this embarrassing and uncomfortable problem. However, the health benefits of kegels aren’t just limited to treating incontinence. Express.co.uk chatted to the physio and experts at femtech brand Elvie to find out the six physical and psychological benefits of doing kegels and how you can implement the exercise into your own routine.

When you hear the word ‘kegels’ you often think of urinary incontinence and post-pregnancy exercises, but all women could benefit from doing this simple exercise.

High impact and intensity sports such as trampolining, gymnastics and running have reported rates of incontinence up to 80 percent and one study found more than half of female university rugby players (54 percent) experience urinary incontinence.

The Welsh Rugby Union women’s team, for example, are doing kegel exercises with the Elvie trainer at least three times a week.

Wales Women’s head physio, Jo Perkins explained: “Just like gymnastics and running, rugby is a high impact sport so if abdominal pressure isn’t managed appropriately it can result in pelvic floor dysfunction.

“This can include abdominal pain and incontinence and affect an athlete’s ability to move effectively, generate force and ultimately perform at their best. It can also cause anxiety, fear and embarrassment.

“It’s also common for athletes to overuse these muscles when bracing their core during a game.

“The pelvic floor muscles can then become tight, fatigued and potentially painful, and, as a result, unable to cope with the demands of high impact moves, such as a tackle.”

If you don’t play any sports, you can still benefit from doing kegels on a regular basis.

Many factors can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, including pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, ageing, excessive straining from constipation or chronic coughing, and being overweight.

No matter what the cause is, if you’ve spotted a bit of leakage when you sneeze, laugh or cough or have a strong and sudden urge to wee often, kegels can help.

According to Elvie’s survey of 2,047 women in the UK, the vast majority of women (84 percent) experience mild or minor incontinence, and 70 percent of those women reported they leak at least once a week.

Two-fifths of women (43 percent) said they believe the shame surrounding the issue stops women from seeking help, a fifth (22 percent) said they feel resigned to the idea that incontinence ‘is just part of day-to-day life’, and almost a third (29 percent) said they have no faith that doctors can do anything to help.

Even if you don’t have symptoms, kegels can help you prevent this from happening as you age.

Men can also benefit from kegel exercises, since strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help to support your bladder, bowel and sexual function.

The six physical and psychological benefits of kegels

The pelvic floor is an invisible set of muscles that we often neglect— after all, it’s hard to train something you can’t see.

However, regular Kegel training builds strength to help with:

  • Bladder control
  • Anxiety and other emotions around incontinence
  • Core stability
  • Postnatal recovery
  • Intimate wellbeing
  • Sexual functioning

How to do kegels

According to Elvie’s research, 30 percent of women push down while performing pelvic floor exercises, which can actually do more harm than good.

It’s near impossible to know you’re doing kegels right, but the Elvie Trainer (which is used by the WRU’s women’s team) uses the gold standard of pelvic floor training—biofeedback—to measure force and motion directly.

Tools like this ensure incorrect contractions are detected so you’re doing it right and alerted when you do it wrong.

All you need to do is use the trainer for five minutes a day, three times a week, to see improvements.

If you don’t have the technology, you can still do kegels.

Jo recommends starting with basic pelvic floor exercises.

She instructed: “Start in less weight-bearing positions such as on your back, progress to sitting and then standing.

“Inhale to prepare, exhale and lift the pelvic floor by trying to stop yourself passing wind and bring the contraction forward and up.

“Aim for 10 seconds holds, 10 repetitions, and 10 quick lifts on and off once a day.

“You should also integrate the pelvic floor contraction into high pressured movements such as contracting before a tackle, jumping or lifting a heavyweight if you are suffering from urinary leaks.

“Definitely seek help from a women’s health physiotherapist if any symptoms

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