We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful sexual health situations that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. This week’s topic: why doing kegel exercises is good for you.
Q: I just heard about kegels for the first time and am super confused. Apparently they are vagina exercises ... Excuse me what?! Am I supposed to be doing these? My friend says they help make you come and keep your vagina tight. Is that even true? I’m not a big gym-goer, I don’t really want to do any type of exercise unless there’s a good health reason behind it.
A: The rumors are true: kegels are a real thing you should know about and incorporate into your self-care routine. This one simple exercise has a bunch of health benefits, but first, let's explain what they are.
Kegels aren’t exactly vagina exercises: they are an exercise that make your pelvic floor muscles stronger. Your pelvic floor is a bunch of muscles and tissues that sit at the bottom of your pelvis. It’s basically a hammock that holds your uterus, bladder, rectum, and small intestine in their places. Doing kegels regularly strengthens this sling of muscles and keeps everything where it should be.
Also, little-known fact: If you were born without a vagina, you can still do kegels! In fact, it’s just as good of an idea. Kegels in humans with male reproductive organs help with urinary or fecal incontinence. There’s also some research that has found that kegels may help with sexual function — specifically, kegels strengthen the bulbocavernosus muscle, which helps the penis become engorged with blood (aka get hard), meaning kegels can help with erectile dysfunction.
So now that we've established that kegels are for everyone, let's get to how they might benefit you.
7 Reasons To Do Kegels
So now you know how to do a kegel, but why? Existing research has found a surprising number of health benefits to this exercise. You may want to incorporate kegels into your daily routine if...
1. Your Pelvic Muscles Are Weak
This can happen during pregnancy, after giving birth, after having surgery, as you get older, or if you are overweight. A weak pelvis can result in pelvic organ prolapse, which is when one of the organs in your pelvis drops from where it should be and gets all up against your vaginal walls. The symptoms of prolapse differ depending on which organ droops, but all include uncomfortable sex.
Luckily, this can be treated with kegels, along with other more intensive treatments such as surgery.
2. You’re Pregnant Or Just Had A Baby
If you’re in the process of having or have just had a tiny human, kegels are your friend. Doing kegels during pregnancy has been found to result in easier births, because you are more able to control the muscles you’re going to be using to push a full human out of your vagina. Having stronger pelvic muscles can also help to control for incontinence and hemorrhoids, which plague many pregnant people. After birth, kegels are used to help with perineal healing and get the pelvic floor muscles back into shape.
3. You Experience Incontinence
Since your pelvic floor muscles are the ones that stop your urine stream, it makes sense that strengthening them can help with incontinence. If you leak a little sometimes (particularly when you laugh or sneeze) doing kegels can help. It can also help with what’s called urge incontinence, which is when you really need to pee all of a sudden and can’t make it to the bathroom in time. And sidebar, the same is true if you leak fecal matter.
4. You Want To Improve Your Sexual Function
Your pelvic floor muscles are the ones that rhythmically contract when you have an orgasm. So it makes sense that making those muscles stronger would result in stronger orgasms, right?
Actually, the research isn’t conclusive, but many people do report stronger orgasms as well as the likelihood to have multiple orgasms when they incorporate a kegel routine into their lives. What is agreed upon is that kegels improve blood circulation in the vaginal area, which increases vaginal lubrication (and slippery sex feels better!). Doing kegels can also help you turn yourself on, because you’re pushing blood down there. Some people can even orgasm that way, hands free (wow my commute would be way more fun). Finally, strengthening these muscles can help some people orgasm vaginally for the first time, and has been shown to heighten clitoral sensation in those who haven’t experienced it before.
Here's some more sex tips for the next time you're between the sheets:
5. Your Vagina Feels Loose
Before we go here, let me just say that the whole obsession with tight vaginas is very slut-shaming. Your vagina doesn't lose its elasticity just because you've slept with a handful of penises! But all rants aside, if you are experiencing a looseness to your vaginal walls (which can happen over time as you age or after pregnancy), kegels can help. They won't actually re-elasticize your vagina, but they can make you feel tighter because you're strengthening the muscles around your vagina, which can then squeeze more strongly.
6. You Experience Anxiety
One study found that after incorporating a kegel routine into their daily lives for a three-month period, the mood of the research participants changed. Specifically, fewer of them reported feelings of anxiety. So if you are anxious, try chilling out and doing some kegel reps.
7. You Get Vaginal Infections
Increasing blood flow to the vaginal region improves your immune response. This means that if you do your kegels, you’re helping your vagina stay healthy! Specifically, research shows that kegels can help your body stave off yeast infection.
How To Do A Kegel
OK, so now that we've established the benefits, how do you even do a kegel? It’s actually pretty simple.
Step 1: Identify Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
In order to exercise your pelvic floor muscles, you gotta know where they are. To identify this part of your body, start peeing, then make yourself stop. The muscles that you use to stop your pee mid-stream is what you're looking for. If your stomach or thighs are what’s clenching, you’re using the wrong muscles. If your body is relaxed and you stop that pee, congratulations! You've identified your pelvic floor muscles!
I know I just said to find your pelvic floor muscles by interrupting your pee stream — but that’s just at the beginning, when you’re figuring out how to do them. If you make a habit of interrupting your urination in this way, you might end up with a urinary tract infection (UTI). So be sure to do your kegel set when you have an empty bladder.
Step 2: Do A Kegel
Now that you know how to clench your pelvic floor muscles, you can do a kegel! Seriously, it's that easy. Just tighten the muscle and hold for a few seconds, and then relax. Voila! A kegel!
Step 3: Do Many!
Kegels are an exercise, which means you have to do them often to build up your strength. Don't strain yourself ("I pulled my pussy muscle" is a really weird thing to have to tell people); work your way up to it. Eventually, you'll want to be holding for 10 seconds, then resting for 10 seconds, with three sets of 10 kegels per day.
Step 4: Don’t Panic (Be Patient)
It may take a while to see the results of your new exercise routine — up to 12 weeks in fact. So give your body the time it needs.
The Bottom Line
Kegels are safe to do. However, as with any exercise, it’s important not to overdo it! Your pelvic floor muscles have a job to do, and if you make them over-tired, they won’t be able to do it.
That said, kegels are an easy thing to incorporate into your life. They have numerous health benefits, and you can really do them anytime, anywhere. No one will ever know! Really, the only thing hard about kegels is remembering to do them. So let’s do one rep of 10 together ... right now.
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