Our modern lifestyles are largely responsible for our pelvic-floor issues. Day-to-day routines that are mostly sedentary – sitting at our desk jobs daily, driving our cars to run errands most of our waking hours, and so on – all these activities keep us busy but aren’t very active at all and the lack of physical activity atrophies our muscles. As women, we are having larger babies than we ever have – good nutrition is the reason – and giving birth to them causes strain on our pelvic muscles. The aging process and menopause also cause changes that weaken our pelvic floor. This isn’t a lost cause as yet and we can avoid most pelvic-floor issues by keeping our pelvic muscles strong with targeted exercises. Pelvic floor exercises have long been considered a women’s health issue, but here’s a not-so-well-known fact, they impact men too! So these exercises are important for everyone.
What Is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that attach to the bones at the bottom of your pelvis and create a type of hammock across the base of your pelvis that supports the urinary and reproductive organs in both men and women. Having strong pelvic floor muscles enables you to have control over your bladder and bowels, but there’s more. Strong pelvic floor muscles also enhance sexual performance and your ability to achieve orgasm, stabilise hip joints and act as a lymphatic pump for your pelvis. So, these muscles are very important.
You’ve probably heard a friend or family member say (in jest), “I laughed so hard I nearly peed myself.” For many women this is reality. According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, about 25% to 45% of women suffer from urinary incontinence. The rates of urinary incontinence increases with age: 20-30% of young women, 30-40% of middle-aged women, and up to 50% of older women.
However, these muscles weaken due to pregnancy, childbirth, sedentary lifestyles, or prostate surgery. Weak pelvic muscles can lead to bladder incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and other health issues. So, how do you strengthen your pelvic muscles? Keep reading to know how to know to unleash the power of pelvic floor exercises.
Current Research on Pelvic Floor Health
Physical therapists and orthopaedic specialists agree that practicing pelvic floor exercises can help you build the core strength necessary to avoid future medical issues that stem from weakness in the pelvic area of the body. A study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing found that pelvic floor exercises when practiced regularly during pregnancy, helped reduce the risk of stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP) in postpartum women. The study involved a total of 833 women who were divided into two groups – one group practiced pelvic floor exercises while the other did not. The results showed that the women who did pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy had a lower incidence of SUI and POP in the postpartum period. This study underscores the importance of pelvic floor exercises in promoting women’s health, especially during pregnancy and postpartum recovery.
How to Do Pelvic Floor Exercises
We now know that stregthening our pelvic floor is important and have seen the research back this up, so let’s get started on understanding which pelvic floor exercises we need.
Kegels tone and strengthen your pelvic muscles, ligaments, and vaginal connective tissues that make up the hammock that cradles your bladder and bowels. Still unsure of what a Kegel is? Stop your urine flow midstream at your next bathroom visit, hold, and then release. Now you know what a Kegel is. According to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, one hundred Kegels a day make an enormous difference to our health and well-being. Start with a count of 10 and repeat 3 times daily and work your way up gradually.
Lay down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Raise just your hips off the floor until your knees and your hips and shoulders form a straight line (like a bridge). Hold for 5 seconds and release laying back down. Repeat 10 times.
Rebounding is a fun aerobic exercise done on a trampoline. When you rebound, you want to think about staying low and jumping into the mat, not jumping off it and trying to get high. The goal is to engage your core with every downward bounce. It’s extremely effective for strengthening your core and lower body muscles in your pelvic floor. Empty your bladder before you jump and even during if you need and bit by bit, your muscle tone down there will build up. Rebounding for five to ten minutes per day can have a dramatic impact on building healthy tone in your pelvic floor and core, repositioning your bladder, and helping regulate minor incontinence.
Pelvic Floor Exercises that are age appropriate
Women of all age groups can practice pelvic floor and deep core exercises to promote their overall health. Here are some exercises that can be done at home and at the gym to strengthen these muscles.
For Women in their 20s and 30s:
At the gym: Planks, side planks, and dead bugs are excellent exercises for deep core strength.
At home: Perform pelvic floor exercises like the Kegel exercise by squeezing your pelvic floor muscles for three to five seconds and then relaxing for three to five seconds. Repeat this ten times, two to three times a day. You can also do bridges, leg raises, and leg slides to strengthen your deep core muscles.
For Women in their 40s and 50s:
At the gym: Weightlifting exercises like lunges, squats, and deadlifts help strengthen your hips and add more stability to your pelvic floor.
At home: Add resistance bands to your pelvic floor exercises like squats, clamshells, and supermans to help strengthen these muscles.
For Women in Their 60s and 70s
At the gym: Use a stability ball to incorporate a deeper level of core activation with crunches, reverse crunches, and planks.
At home: You can do exercises like yoga, pilates, or tai chi to improve your balance, flexibility, and overall health, which also benefits your core and pelvic floor muscles.
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At-Home Pelvic Floor Essentials
Desert Sage Yoga Mat
Rose Quartz Crystal Water Bottle
Move Body Oil
Yoga Mat Strap – Aqua
Yoga Blocks – Green
Nafs Eco Sports Bra – Green
Nafs Biker Shorts – Green
Nafs Eco Leggings – Green
Pelvic floor exercises are essential for both men’s and women’s health. These exercises not only prevent potential health issues but can also improve overall core strength, making daily activities more comfortable and less straining. Start with simple exercises like Kegel and the Bridge, add rebounding and increase your reps gradually. By taking care of your pelvic floor, you can stay strong and avoid potential medical issues.
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