Have you noticed that particular daily activities such as sneezing, coughing, running, or laughing end up resulting in leaking a little bit of urine? As a man, do you have a harder time maintaining erections? As a woman, has sexual intercourse become painful and uncomfortable? These symptoms can all be a result of a variety of different reasons, but they can also all lead back to your pelvic floor. If you’ve been feeling hopeless about why any of the above symptoms are occurring, you’ve come to the right place. Some call these times the “pelvic floor revolution,” because more information and practices are coming out about how to strengthen this area of your body. In this article, we are going to talk all about the importance of strengthening the pelvic floor and what you can do to support this often overlooked part of your body.
What is a pelvic floor?
Pelvic floor disorders tend to be more common in women than in men, and studies have shown that roughly one-quarter of women living in the United States are impacted by one or more pelvic floor disorders. This is quite a large number, especially because so many of us don’t even know where our pelvic floor is located, what it does, and why it’s so vital for our overall wellbeing.
A pelvic floor is a base group of muscles that are located in the pelvis and stretch from the front of your pubic bone to the back where your tailbone is located. Your pelvic floor works with other muscles in your body to support stability and the spine.
In men, the pelvic floor supports the bladder and bowel. In women, the pelvic floor supports the bowel, uterus, and bladder. Without even realizing it, you have used and activated your pelvic floor muscles by holding in gas or number one and two. If you’ve ever been pregnant, your pelvic floor was also greatly impacted by stretching and making room for a growing baby. After giving birth, women will experience a weakened pelvic floor for up to two months. Although some women are impacted by pelvic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction long after childbirth, sometimes symptoms can even emerge years later.
What are the reasons for a weakened pelvic floor?
It is hard to pinpoint just how many people are really impacted by pelvic floor disorders, especially because awareness of the symptoms and condition is quite low. Although many of the causes remain unknown, there are definitely some known factors that can lead to a weakened pelvic floor or a pelvic floor disorder.
- Being overweight
- Trauma in the pelvic area such as a car accident
- Chronic constipation
- Pelvic surgery
- Advancing in age
In some of these circumstances, a weakened pelvic floor can’t be avoided, therefore it’s important to know what can be done to improve your pelvic floor health.
Why is strengthening the pelvic floor important?
Our pelvic floor muscles support our pelvic organs, so simply put, when you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, the organs that surround it also become stronger. Some of the benefits you can expect from strengthening your pelvic floor muscles include:
- Better supported bowels, bladder, and uterus
- Reduced urinary leakage, lower back pain, pelvic pressure, and incontinence.
- Less low back pain
- Less pelvic discomfort
- Better sexual intercourse
- In some men, a stronger pelvic floor can improve erectile dysfunction
- Increased confidence and quality of life
How to strengthen the pelvic floor?
If you’ve been dealing with any of the weakened pelvic floor symptoms that we mentioned earlier on in this article or want to strengthen your pelvic floor in general there are ways you can do so!
If you’ve never activated your pelvic floor muscles before you probably don’t know where to start. One of the easiest and most common ways to strengthen this set of muscles is by doing kegels. There are different ways of performing a kegel if you’re a man or woman. Here is how you can get started from almost any place, anywhere:
Kegels for women: First and foremost, to perform a kegel properly you will need to identify your pelvic floor muscles. One simple way you can do this is by practicing the next time you are urinating. While you are going, stop releasing during midstream. In doing so you should feel the sensation of your pelvic floor tightening. In order to perfect your technique and practice kegels throughout different times of the day, imagine you are sitting on a marble and begin to tighten your muscles as if you are lifting it. Once you start to get more comfortable with kegels you can repeat them three times a day for 15 sets, each 3 seconds long. With consistent practice, most women start to notice a difference within 4-6 weeks or by three months.
Kegels for men: Men can perform kegels too, just in a different way than women do! In order to identify and activate your pelvic floor muscles as a male, you can also try to stop urinating midstream. We advise not doing this often because it could become painful to stop and go. Once you have identified the feeling of tightening your pelvic floor muscles, it’s time to try kegels! To practice this exercise you will need to envision pulling in and lifting up your genitals from the inside. Start slowly and once you get the hang of doing them you can practice three times today for 10 sets of 3 second kegels each.
If kegels aren’t your cup of tea for strengthening your pelvic floor, don’t sweat it. There are other exercises and options available for pelvic floor strengthening. Here are some to name a few:
- Hip Bridges
- Jumping jacks
- Physical therapy
We highly recommend consulting with a fitness professional or medical doctor before changing anything within your lifestyle or daily routine to see if it’s best suited for you.
We have more education than ever before about ways to improve our health, from the inside out and the outside in (pelvic floor muscles included). If you’ve been dealing with any of the troubling or uncomfortable symptoms that come along with a weakened pelvic floor, we hope that the right exercises or protocol can help you find comfort again in your daily life.
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