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Sharp Health News

Kegel exercises: not just for women

Nov. 5, 2015


They’ve been the topic of women’s magazine articles for decades, but men may not know that Kegels offer benefits for them, as well. 

Kegel exercises, also called pelvic floor muscle training, help prevent urinary incontinence, relieve the symptoms of prolapse (a condition where one or more of the pelvic organs drop from their normal position) and prepare pregnant women for childbirth.

Kegel exercises were developed by Dr. Arnold Kegel in the late 1940s to help his female patients strengthen their pelvic floor, or pubococcygeus, muscles that support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. These muscles can weaken due to aging, pregnancy, childbirth, surgeries like cesarean section, obesity or straining related to chronic constipation or coughing.

Along with preventing and treating incontinence in both men and women, Dr. Kegel’s exercises are now also believed to increase both male and female sexual satisfaction. Just as women perform Kegels to boost arousal and increase climax, men are encouraged to do Kegel exercises to help reduce premature ejaculation and increase the size and intensity of erections.

“Kegels absolutely work,” says Lisa Prieto, a physical therapist at Sharp Memorial Hospital. “They are very effective in preventing and treating urinary and fecal incontinence, and can improve both male and female sexual function and pleasure. Also, because the Kegel muscles are part of the core muscle group, strengthening them can help with chronic low back pain in both men and women.”

Kegels work, but only if done correctly

Kegels are performed by contracting the muscles you use to slow or stop urination. Once you’ve identified the targeted muscles, you can perform Kegels almost anywhere — while lying down, sitting at your desk or even standing in line at the grocery store.

Prieto recommends that you do 30 to 80 Kegels per day, spread throughout the day in three to eight sets of 10 repetitions. Each repetition calls for holding the pelvic muscle contraction for up to 10 seconds followed by relaxation for the same amount of time. You can also practice quick contractions, rapidly tightening and releasing the Kegel muscles several times in a row.

It is important to maintain your focus while doing your Kegels to achieve the desired results. Make sure you are only tightening your pelvic floor muscles and not your abdomen, buttocks or leg muscles, and try not to hold your breath during your repetitions.

If you perform Kegels correctly, both men and women may notice improvement within several weeks but it may take up to two to three months to appreciate real gain in muscle strength. Talk with your doctor or a pelvic floor physical therapist about the correct way to perform Kegels and whether a pelvic floor “workout” is appropriate for you.

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