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How to perform Kegel exercises

December 28, 2014

Kegel exercises are a great way to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. Doing this can help prevent stress incontinence, the leakage of urine when coughing, laughing, lifting a heavy object, or doing something else that puts pressure on the bladder.

To perform a Kegel, you first need to find your pelvic floor muscles and then repeatedly contract and relax them.

Locate your pelvic muscles. Pretend you are trying to avoid passing gas; if you are a woman, you can pretend to tighten your vagina around a tampon. Both actions involve the pelvic muscles. You will feel the contraction more in the back than the front, like you are pulling in the anal area.

Choose your position. Start by lying on your back until you get the feel of contracting the pelvic floor muscles. Later, you can practice while sitting and standing as well.774f11d9-e4e1-485f-bb13-26b39f76169f16207266921527

Practice contractions. Practice both short contractions and releases (sometimes called "quick flicks") and longer ones (gradually increasing the strength of the contraction and holding it at your maximum for up to 10 seconds). Mastering long contractions may take more practice. Consciously relax the muscles between each repetition, and hold the relaxation phase for the same amount of time as the contraction. Start by holding each one for 3 to 5 seconds, resting the same number of seconds between contractions. Build up to 10-second contractions, with 10 seconds of rest between contractions.

Keep other muscles relaxed. When doing pelvic floor exercises, don't contract your abdominal, leg, or buttock muscles or lift your pelvis. Place a hand gently on your belly to detect unwanted abdominal action.

Repetitions. Try to do at least 30 to 40 Kegels every day. It is more effective to spread the exercises throughout the day than to do them all at once. One simple starting regimen is to do 10 before getting out of bed, 10 standing after lunch, 10 in the evening while sitting watching TV, and another 10 before going to sleep. You can do them at other times as well: in the car sitting at a stoplight, waiting for an elevator, or waiting in a grocery line.

As needed. If you have stress incontinence, tighten your pelvic floor muscles just before lifting, coughing, laughing, or whatever causes urine leakage. Do the same several times when you have the urge to urinate and doubt you are going to make it to the toilet. This should relax your bladder muscle so you can walk to the toilet under control.

Be consistent. Practice consistently, using whatever schedule works for you. It may take a few months for you to notice an improvement in your symptoms.

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As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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