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8 ways to strengthen your pelvic floor

By The Health News Team | March 29, 2024
Person doing yoga

We don’t think twice about working out to keep our arms, legs, abs or glutes in good shape, but what about our pelvic floor? Although we can’t see our pelvic floor muscles like the muscles in other parts of our body, keeping them strong and healthy is important.

“Practicing good pelvic health habits now may help prevent issues down the road, or may reduce the severity,” says Dr. Kimia Menhaji, a urogynecologist affiliated with Sharp HealthCare. “This is similar to how practicing a healthy lifestyle can help prevent chronic disease.”

Why is pelvic health important?

About 1 in 4 women develop some type of pelvic floor disorder. The pelvic floor is a bowl-shaped structure made up of a group of muscles that support a women’s bladder, bowel and uterus. The pelvic floor also plays a role in sexual function.

Sometimes, pelvic floor muscles become weakened because of pregnancy, obesity, previous surgeries or due to other reasons. This can cause a range of conditions, from loss of bladder or bowel control to organ prolapse — when one or more of the pelvic organs drop or press into or out of the vagina. And although issues occur more often as women become older, it’s not necessarily a normal part of aging.

“The most common problems I see in my practice are different types of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, which can have a serious impact on a woman’s quality of life,” says Dr. Menhaji. “The good news is that there are many treatment options available."

How to improve pelvic health

Dr. Menhaji offers 8 tips to help keep your pelvic floor strong and healthy:


Practice Pilates or yoga.

These activities, along with other core-strengthening exercises, strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and have shown to help some women with urinary incontinence.


Do Kegel exercises.

Kegels are a simple exercise that can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. To start:

  • Make sure your bladder is empty.

  • Using the muscles you’d use to stop urine midstream, tighten and hold the muscles for 3 seconds.

  • Release and relax for the same amount of time.

  • Repeat tightening, holding and releasing for up to 10 repetitions.

Your muscles will progressively get stronger. Every week, add a second to increase your holding time until you get to 10 seconds. If you have other specific health conditions, ask your doctor if Kegels exercises are right for you.


Don’t hold your urine.

It’s normal to be able to hold your urine for two to three hours. But holding it for longer periods of time could lead to urinary issues later in life and increase your risk of urinary tract infections.


Maintain a healthy body weight.

A healthy body weight reduces excess pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and organs. It can also reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which may also play a role in pelvic floor disorders, such as urinary incontinence. One study showed that in women who were overweight and obese, 7% body-weight loss led to a 40% improvement in urinary issues.


Cut back on caffeine, chocolate, citrus, alcohol and carbonated drinks.

These beverages can irritate the bladder and cause urinary frequency, urgency and incontinence. Caffeine and alcohol are also both diuretics, which cause the body to create more urine and irritate the bladder.


Don’t sit for long periods of time on the toilet straining or pushing.

This can lead to unhealthy bowel movement and urination behaviors. It also increases your risk of organ prolapse because of the pressure it places on the pelvic floor organs and muscles. If you’re experiencing constipation, increase fiber in your diet or take a fiber supplement to soften the stool.


Learn proper lifting techniques and avoid repetitive or heavy lifting.

Lifting heavy objects can be a risk factor for pelvic floor disorders because it puts pressure on the pelvic muscles. If you must lift something heavy, maintain a good lifting posture and ask for help when needed.


Don’t drink too much water.

This may seem counterintuitive, but some people believe excessive water drinking is healthy. While staying hydrated is important, drinking too much water can lead to urinary issues, such as frequent urination, urinary urgency and urinary incontinence. Unless you’ve been advised by your doctor to drink a specific amount of water for a specific health issue, let your thirst drive your water intake.

If you have concerns regarding your pelvic floor health, it's important to remember there are safe and effective treatments. "Talk to your primary care physician or your OBGYN, who can refer you to a urogynecologist for an evaluation or treatment," Dr. Menhaji says.

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