Written by Imane Dodo
Image via Pinterest
What is the pelvic floor and why is it important?
Do you sometimes leak when laughing or coughing? You’re not alone! Pelvic floor related conditions are more common than you think and can be mitigated by adding pelvic floor exercises in your workout routine.
But first, what exactly is the pelvic floor? The pelvic floor is comprising of muscles and tissues that attach to your pelvis. The pelvic floor includes the urethra, bladder, intestines, rectum. The uterus, cervix and vagina are also part of the pelvic floor for women.
Pelvic organs play a central role in your daily live, as they support functions such as controlling bladder, popping, sex. For example, they enable routine movement such as standing or sitting by stabilising your hips and trunk, and contribute to sexual health by facilitating arousal and orgasms during sex.
Conditions including (but not limited to) pregnancy, surgery, menopause, sexual abuse, endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome and obesity can lead to pelvic dysfunction (PFD), leading to discomfort during sex, mild or chronic pain, incontinence, lower back pain, pelvic muscle spasms, etc.
To identify your pelvic floor, try slowing down your urine flow for a few seconds while at the bathroom (not too long because it can lead to infections) or try blocking gas out while standing. The area where you feel a pulling sensation while performing these actions should be your pelvic floor.
How to strengthen your pelvic floor
There are easy exercises you can perform at home to strengthen your pelvic floor. A pelvic floor therapist can also help you build a routine, identify your pelvic floor and perform the exercises to strengthen it correctly.
– Heel slides (Example)
How to: Lie on your back. Slowly slide one foot toward you on the floor, bending your knee. When your heel is close to your bum, slowly slide back with heel on the floor until your leg is straight. Repeat the movement 12-15 times on each side.
– Kegels (Example)
Kegels, aka pelvic floor muscle training, are simple sets of exercises to perform to improve bladder control.
How to: In a sitting position, with an inward curve in your lower back, tighten your anus as if you are stopping gas from passing. Hold the contraction for three seconds, relax for another three and repeat. Each set of contraction and release is one Kegel. Repeat 10 Kegels in a set, 2-3 times a day.
– Squeeze and release
This is one you can literally do anytime and anywhere. I like to do this exercise during the day (set a reminder for yourself while sitting at the office or standing at work).
How to: Imagine that you want to hold gas that is about to come out. Squeeze, hold for 3 seconds and release. Repeat 10-12 times in a quick and regular motion. You can increase the hold time as you get more used to the exercises. Ensure that your pelvic floor is fully engaged by keeping your buttocks still (they should not move when you squeeze).
– Bridges (example)
How to: Lie down on your back, with your knees bent, heels on the floor. Lift your hips up in alignment with your trunk and squeeze your bum as if you are holding poo. Put your bum back down and repeat the movement 10-12 times. This exercise is great for glutes as well, so you get to build that booty simultaneously – win win.
Squats strengthen your pelvic floor and buttocks. Narrow squats tend to be more effective for pelvic floor activation.
How to: stand with feet apart (hip width). Lower your bum as if you are about to sit on an imaginary chair. Keep your back straight, and knees in line with your toes. To help with body alignment, lift your arm up toward the ceiling, look at the ceiling and lift your toes slightly. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.