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Keeping up with your kegels

Keeping up with your kegels

You’ve probably heard of Kegel exercises, but despite society’s obsession with all other kinds of fitness these days, vagina workouts have hardly become mainstream. But it’s time to reconsider: there are tons of benefits to doing Kegels for women of every age and in every stage of life.

You got me. What are Kegels, exactly?
Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support your bladder, uterus, rectum, and small intestine, keeping everything in place and working smoothly. Pelvic floor muscles extend between your tailbone and pubic bone, and are hammock-like in shape.

More than one in three women experience physical problems as a result of pelvic floor weakness

There are a lot of things that can weaken your pelvic floor, including pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, aging, and being overweight, according to the Mayo Clinic. The potential problems are many: incontinence (aka peeing a little), decreased sexual pleasure, and weakened core strength. Yikes.

“More than one in three women experience physical problems as a result of pelvic floor weakness,” says Tania Boler, the co-founder and CEO of Chiaro, a women’s health technology startup.

Her company specializes in wearables, and has created an innovative wearable device, the Elvie ($199), that can help strengthen your pelvic floor. The small, pod-like accessory connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and measures force in a way that can track progress on your Kegel exercises. Plus, it’s just darn fun—you work out using a game on your phone, so if you have a competitive streak, you’ll definitely get on the path to pelvic floor fitness.

Are Kegels right for me?
So, you may already know that Kegels are super important for women who’ve just had a baby.

“Pelvic floor muscles become strained due to the weight gain (22 to 26 pounds, on average) and shifts in our center of gravity,” Boler says. “Pelvic floor and abdomen muscles become weakened, leaving the bladder and lower back with less support, often leading to physical problems that impact the majority of new mums to be.”

But if you’ve heard that Kegels are just for postpartum ladies, it’s time we busted that myth. Even if you’re young and fit, you’re still—gasp—at risk for a weakened pelvic floor. In fact, gym rats are actually more likely to suffer from issues like incontinence.

Translation: do Kegels, have better sex.

“High-impact sports such as running, CrossFit, tennis, and basketball with repeated impactful downward forces can actually damage vital muscles in women’s bodies, including the pelvic floor,” Boler says. “Pelvic floor muscle training is recommended by professionals to build full body strength for runners.”

And, working out your pelvic floor will also strengthen your pubococcygeus muscle, which contracts when you have an orgasm. Translation: do Kegels, have better sex.

I’m sold. How do I do them?
While Boler’s Elvie is an extra fun way to keep your pelvic floor in tip-top shape, you can also do Kegels without any equipment at all.

Here’s a simple technique to try: squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, hold for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Repeat five times. As you get stronger, you can build up to 10-second tighten-and-release intervals. You should try to squeeze in (get it?!) a session every day.

You can also add more of a challenge to your Kegels by using weights (this set costs $30, but there are myriad choices available on Amazon).

“One in three women do Kegels incorrectly and some bear down rather than lifting their pelvic floors,” says Boler. “Over time this can lead to damage, so it’s important to find out if you’ve got the movement.” If you’re wondering what it feels like to use your pelvic floor muscles, try stopping your urine flow midstream next time you pee. Bingo—you’ve found ’em!

Alright ladies, hit play on the Rocky theme song and start training.

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