There is a lot of confusing information about kegels out there- Should I do them? Are they worth it? Should I be doing 1,000 kegels a day? Should I do squats instead? How do I actually do a kegel?
If you are doing kegels, it has been shown that up to 50% of women are doing them incorrectly! I would say that corresponds to what I see clinically. I also see that kegels are also seen as the cure-all for pelvic floor dysfunction (they’re not).
Kegel exercises were originally developed by Dr. Arnold Kegel in the 1940s as a method of controlling incontinence in women after childbirth. A kegel exercise is a contraction of the muscles of the pelvic floor (like stopping the flow of urine). I use kegels regularly in my practice to help women bring awareness to their pelvic floor and as a strengthening tool, however they have been a umbrella recommendation for all things pelvic floor.
Often women come to see me, and they don’t know how to contract their pelvic floor muscles and instead are using other neighboring muscles…like the buttocks or inner thighs. A kegel is a squeeze and a lift up. I talk more about in this short video.
So once you can do a kegel, should you be doing 50 at every stoplight? NO! That’s not helpful- you need to learn how to coordinate your breath, core muscles and pelvic floor while you are moving, because that’s when we leak! We learn and strengthen the muscles in static postures (lying down, sitting and standing) but then we need to shift into dynamic movements like going from sit to stand, squatting, lifting, jumping and running. For more explanation check out this video.
Finally, kegels are not right for everyone. In a lot of cases, women’s pelvic floor muscles are overactive, meaning they are already working hard and could be causing increased urinary frequency, urgency, difficulty with bowel movements, painful sex and even incontinence. In these cases, kegels can make those symptoms worse.
My advice is to seek a pelvic floor physical therapist that can determine if your pelvic floor is weak or overactive (“tight”) and what is an appropriate strategy for you and your personal goals. And…stop doing your kegels at the red light!