Toning your pelvic muscles – do Kegels
Dear Ate Anna,
I am 54 years old. Many people say that I look much younger than my age; I am so happy about that. But I have developed a problem. Sometimes when I cough hard, sneeze or laugh out loud, I leak urine. This is embarrassing! Ate Anna, do you have any suggestions about how I can stop this?
Ate Anna suggests you talk to your doctor about the problem. From the description in your letter, it seems that your pelvic floor muscles are weak. This can cause a bladder control problem – urinary incontinence is the medical term. The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that attach to both the pubic bone and the tailbone in a figure eight around the genitals.
The pelvic floor muscles hold your pelvic organs (urethra, bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum) in place. When these muscles become weak, the pelvic organs drop down onto one another. When this happens, you may have urinary incontinence (or other problems).
Common causes of weak pelvic floor muscles in women are pregnancy and childbirth, normal aging, being overweight and activities that put pressure on the bladder (hard coughing, sneezing, or heavy lifting).
Isabella, there is an exercise that you can do to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and restore some of their muscle tone. The good news is that Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic floor exercises, can help prevent urine leakage.
To do Kegal exercises you need to tighten and relax the muscles of the pelvic floor. These are the muscles that you can feel when you are sitting on a chair. Use only the muscles of the pelvic floor; do not tighten your back, abdominal or thigh muscles when doing Kegel exercises – it will not help. If you are having difficulty finding the correct muscles to use, try to stop the flow of urine while you are going to the bathroom. Do this several times until you know what it feels like to tighten the pelvic floor muscles. Once you have found the right muscles, do the exercise only when you are not urinating. Doing Kegels with a full bladder or while emptying your bladder can increase your risk of getting a urinary tract infection. It is actually a good idea to empty your bladder before you do your Kegel exercises.
When you first start doing Kegels, tighten and contract your pelvic muscles for four or five seconds, then relax. Do this four or five times in a row, three times a day. As your muscle tone improves, contract the pelvic muscles and hold for 10 seconds, then relax for 10 seconds between contractions. Do this 10 times in a row, at least three times a day. If you do your Kegel exercises faithfully, you may notice some improvement in about 8-12 weeks. If you want more information about Kegel exercises, talk to your doctor or public health nurse or visit www.mayoclinic.com and type Kegel exercise into the search box.
The good thing about Kegel exercises is that they are easy to do. You do not need to go to the gym. You can do Kegel exercises anywhere and anytime – sitting, waiting for a bus, washing dishes, watching television, or waiting in line at the grocery store etc.
Men, take note: Kegel exercises are not only for women. Kegel exercises can help keep or improve a man’s bladder control. Besides, there are other benefits of doing this exercise. Kegel exercises can enhance sensation for men and women during sex – they may even notice an increase in sexual pleasure.
Isabella, people are now saying 54 years old is the “new” 45. Ate Anna thinks this saying may apply to you since you get many compliments about your looks. But remember, it is important not to neglect your pelvic floor muscles. Don’t let these hidden muscles give your age away – do Kegels!
Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments. Please write to: Ate Anna, Suite 200 – 226 Osborne St. N., Winnipeg, MB R3C 1V4 or e-mail: email@example.com