Kegel Exercises: Your First Line of Defense Against Urinary Incontinence

Your smartphone can even help you make sure you are doing them correctly.

I bet your New Year’s resolution was to remember to do your Kegel exercises… right? Kegels, or pelvic floor exercises, are an effective way for men and women to fight against urinary incontinence. In 1948 an OB/GYN named Arnold Kegel was the first to publish advice about doing exercises of the pelvic floor muscles. His work showed that these exercises, which now bear his name, resulted in significant reductions in urinary incontinence.

Many women suffer from urinary incontinence, urgency and frequency issues due to aging, childbirth or because of athletic injury. There’s strong evidence linking vaginal birth to urinary incontinence, so that means many moms should pay attention to strengthening their pelvic floor.

If you have yet to experience the mad dash to the bathroom or leaking when you sneeze, you may not even be thinking about Kegel exercises. But a strong pelvic floor can keep those incidents from occurring.

With technology and medicine accelerating at a fast pace hand in hand, it should be no surprise that you can now use your smartphone to help with Kegels. Biofeedback is something that I can perform in my office to help patients learn how to do Kegel exercises effectively and gain muscle memory to do them on their own.

In the past few years several FDA approved take-home devices have come onto the market. You can simply insert a device into your vagina and connect it to your smartphone. On your screen you will see prompts to squeeze, flex or release muscles.

I am a certified trainer for one such device, PeriCoach. And I have seen the benefits for women who are reminded daily to do their Kegels, and given feedback on their effectiveness. Within 4-6 weeks, clients notice an improvement in their control of their bladder.

PeriCoach can assist in Kegel training and measures the pelvic floor muscles. Users enable their smartphone to connect a controller, which is inserted into the vagina and works with movements of the pelvic floor.

You can also use your smartphone in another way to promote Kegel exercises, and that’s to remind you to do them. Put it on your calendar so you’ll get that regular ping to do some Kegels throughout the day.

An older fashioned way is to leave notes for yourself – on your work desk, your bathroom mirror, in your car – to Kegel. Remembering to do them is half the battle for many people.

Would you like Kegel exercises or surgery?

There are several other options for women suffering from incontinence including bladder training, prescription medication and surgery. But the first line of treatment and defense against urinary incontinence is the Kegel technique.

So, what is a Kegel exactly? To perform this exercise, you can imagine that you are restricting the passing of gas. If you can do that, while not contracting your thighs, buttocks or abdomen, you have found your pelvic muscles.

Quick contractions of two seconds or longer contractions of 10 seconds each work well, provided you make sure that you let your muscle relax fully. That relaxation is important, so make sure to do your Kegels in sets with rest points, as is the case in all muscle strengthening.

Ideally you can do 15 repetitions of long and short contractions in the morning and evening. That’s not too much to ask. After all, Dr. Kegel wanted his patients to do 600 contractions a day.