Better than Viagra?
Although exactly how strengthening PFMs supports certain urogenital functions isn’t entirely understood, it’s widely accepted that strengthening these muscles can be beneficial for a number of functions. To reap the benefits for yourself, first you need to identify the relevant muscles, which can be tricky for some people. Here are a couple of ways to find them.
- By far the easiest method is to stop your urine mid-stream. This comes with the strong caution not to do this often — it’s only to identify the proper muscles. Stopping your flow on a regular basis can lead to other problems.
- Alternatively, squeeze your anal sphincter like you’re trying to hold back gas. Do not squeeze your glutes or leg or stomach muscles. Focus on squeezing the ring of muscle around your anus.
- Another method is to consciously pull the pelvic floor up as if you are trying to protect yourself from someone punching you in the stomach. Be mindful that you don’t also tighten your abdominal muscles.
All of these methods can be done standing or sitting. If you need to verify you are isolating the correct muscles, stand naked in front of a mirror and strongly contract the muscles you’ve identified. You should see your penis draw in, and your scrotum should lift up.
Set a schedule
Now that you’ve found the proper muscles, establish a regular schedule to strengthen them. Anyone can do Kegel exercises any time, which makes them easy to do and easy to forget. To help you remember, try doing them at the same time you do other regular activities, like brushing your teeth or fixing your meals.
Start out by doing sets of Kegels two or three times a day. While sitting or standing, consciously tighten your PFMs and hold for three to five seconds, then release. It’s tempting to hold your breath, but continue to breathe normally while you complete this exercise 10 times. If you can’t do that many, do as many as you can and work your way up. Focus on gently tightening, holding, and then releasing the muscles of your pelvic floor, but don’t strain with the effort.
You can also take a few minutes at the end of a workout or yoga practice and lie on your back on the floor or other firm surface. Focus on completely relaxing your abdominal muscles, glutes, thighs and hamstrings while strongly contracting your PFMs. Repeat until you reach your goal.
Even if you are not experiencing any symptoms, strengthening your PFMs can be preventive just like working out any other muscle. If you are troubled by symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor about it. Otherwise, practicing Kegel exercises for men and women on a regular basis could deliver substantial benefits down the road.
February 27, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN