The pelvic floor is the unsung hero that we have always taken for granted.
It is comprised of a group of muscles that support your bladder, vagina and rectum. As we get older and go through the menopause, we might find that our pelvic floor muscles grow weaker and thinner as our estrogen levels start to fall. This can lead to many of us suffering from incontinence or pain during sex. Below are five simple exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you take back control of your body.
Kegel exercise has become somewhat mainstream in the past few years and is the best exercise for tightening your pelvic floor. For those of you who are experiencing bladder problems, this one might be particularly helpful. Kegel exercises involve contracting and releasing the muscles in your vagina and bladder. This sounds harder than it actually is.
To do Kegels, imagine that you’re peeing, and with the same muscles it takes to stop the flow, tighten the muscles for 8 seconds, then release for 10 seconds. Do this for 10 repetitions, three times a day. Close your eyes and focus on the muscles in your vagina, bladder and anus. If you can feel them tighten, you’re doing the exercises right. Take notice, however, if your butt, thighs or abdomen start to clench and then try to ease up, as you are doing the Kegels incorrectly. To get an idea of how to do them right, the next time you go to the bathroom, try to stop the flow of your pee and then start it again. It is important not to make this a habit though, as stopping and starting your pee can lead to bladder problems later on.
If Kegel exercises are something you’re struggling with, or you want your exercises to be as effective as they can be, you could also look at investing in Kegel trainers or weights. Meg would personally recommend the KegelSmart by Intimina. It is a safe, non-surgical little device that you use once a day to help strengthen your pelvic floor. It registers the strength of every muscle contraction and automatically sets itself to a different level based on your progress. It’s the only smart pelvic trainer in the world that uses biofeedback technology to register the strength, contraction length and reaction time of each Kegel exercise. The KegelSmart also comes with a phone and desktop app which can track your progress and help you do the exercises more effectively.
With stronger pelvic floor muscles, you’ll feel more sensations when you have sex and you’ll feel more in control of your bladder muscles.
In addition to toning your bum, squats are also an effective way to strengthen your pelvic floor. To ensure that you’re doing the squats correctly, stand upright with your feet slightly further, then shoulder-width apart, with your feet pointing outwards. With your back straight and leaning slightly forward, bend your knees and bring your bum to the floor. To avoid injury, only go as low as you’re comfortable with. While you are in this position, try to focus on how your bum and pelvic muscles tighten. Do this once a day, 10 times per day.
You might a yoga mat for this exercise. If you don’t have one, consider laying out a blanket or towel to give your body a slightly softer surface to work on to avoid injury or bruising. To do make a successful bridge, start with your back lying flat on the matt and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle (make sure your feet are flat on the ground). Take a deep breath and while squeezing your pelvic floor raise your hips up forming a small bridge, holding for 2-3 seconds. In this position, you should have your weight on your upper back and shoulders. Repeat this exercise 10 times and take a break before repeating.
Split Table Top
If you’ve ever done Pilates, you might already be familiar with this exercise. In a similar starting position to the bridge position, start with your back flat on the ground. Have your knees bent at a 90-degree angle with your feet up in the air. It should look like you’re sitting on a chair. Slowly split your legs apart, pushing them as far as you’re comfortable with.
Don’t worry if you can’t get them very far, as you do this exercise more frequently, your muscles will become more flexible. Slowly bring your knees together again and repeat this exercise 10-15 times depending on your stamina three times a day. It is important to squeeze your pelvic muscles (similar to the Kegels) while doing the exercise for them to be most effective.
The Bird Dog
Finally, we have the Bird Dog which is a slightly more odd-looking exercise that requires a little bit of balance. However, if you suffer from back pain, you might also want to consider this exercise as it also strengthens the muscles in your back.
Start with your hands and knees on the floor like a dog. Try to keep your back and neck straight the entire time and your knees hips-width apart. Take a moment to find your centre of balance, then slowly raise your right arm and left leg out, straightening them. Hold this pose for 2 seconds before slowly bringing them back to the starting position. Continue doing this 10 times, alternating which arm and leg you raise.
It’s important not to remember that doing these exercises too often and too hard can lead to the opposite result, adding further damage to your pelvic floor. When doing all these exercises, remember to take deep breaths and to relax. Be patient and your body will slowly show signs of progress.