Incontinence and sexual issues can be the consequence of a weak pelvic floor, both problems affecting quality of life for women. The causes of this weakening can range from childbirth to aging, and also lack of exercise. As part of your exercise regime it is worthwhile focusing in on strengthening and tightening the muscles that support the lower organs and, along with the abdominals, make up our core muscles. Strengthening these promotes stability and is an essential part of fitness.
As well as building core strengthening and pelvic floor exercises into your fitness workout, you can also work on these muscles in your own time. In fact, not only do you not need any special equipment, but you can work the pelvic muscles while you are sitting down. Here are two examples:
- Sit with your knees apart a little and without moving your legs or any part of your lower body, gently squeeze the muscle above the entrance to your back passage. You should really feel this muscle being tightened and being drawn in and up.
- Still in a sitting position, strengthen the front part of your pelvic floor by pulling in these muscles, again without moving other parts of your body. If you are not sure if you are tightening the correct muscles, imagine that you are passing urine and are stopping the flow.
A good pelvic muscle exercise lying down is:
Lie with your soles of the feet on the floor and your knees bent. Keep your lower back pressed down lightly and your pelvic area stable and now moving. Place the palms of your hands across your lower abdomen with your elbows out to the side. Next, let one knee move out to the side in a controlled way, rather than fall, holding in position before gently bringing the knee back in. Do the same with the other knee, and also try moving both knees out at the same time.
It's important to ensure that you keep the abdomen from moving and do not roll the body. You want smooth, slow movements rather than a quick, jerky style. As the knee moves the hips socket moves and this will also stretch and therefore strengthen the pelvic muscles, opening out the pelvis and creating a good amount of resistance.
Before you attempt any pelvic exercises make sure your bladder is empty so as not to cause any discomfort. It is tempting to tense up other parts of the body as you clench the pelvic area, so make a concerted effort to keep the buttocks and thighs relaxed, so that you are not taking away from the effort being made by the pelvic floor. It's also important to keep your breathing steady and not to hold the breath.
Holding the muscles, once contracted, before releasing is what really exercises the pelvic floor. However, some good quality, slow movements can be more effective than quick contractions. You also don't want to overdo these exercises as you run the risk of creating muscle fatigue which can cause the opposite from what you want to happen, with weaker muscles instead.