You might not give your pelvic floor much thought, but it’s essential to devote time to ensuring those muscles stay strong.
The pelvic floor is a set of muscles that support organs like your uterus, and are used to relax and contract your bladder and bowels when you go to the toilet. A weak pelvic floor can lead to incontinence, as well as wind being released involuntarily.
It’s easy to end up with weak pelvic floor muscles, with pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, obesity, chronic constipation and ageing all having a negative impact. But strengthening your pelvic floor muscles doesn’t need to be hard. Here are four exercises you can try at home right now.
Kegels can be done anytime, any place. These work on bladder control, and involve tightening, holding and then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles.
To give kegels a go, start by sitting down in a chair. Squeeze the muscles that would normally allow you to wee and hold for five seconds. Relax, then squeeze the muscles again.
Do this five to seven times. Over time, increase the number of seconds that you spend squeezing the muscles.
Here, you’re going to squeeze the pelvic muscles around your rectum. As with the pelvic kegels, sit comfortably on a chair.
This time, squeeze tight, as though you were holding in a bout of wind. Imagine you’re going up in a lift; a full squeeze is the second floor. Now, loosen the squeeze a little so you’re on the first floor. Then relax all the way. Repeat this five times, pausing at each floor for three seconds.
This move will work the glutes (bum muscles) and pelvic floor muscles as well as other muscles in the lower body.
Stand with your feet just wider than hip-width apart, toes pointing slightly outwards. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, then bend your knees and lower as if about to sit on a chair, pushing your hips back as you do so, keeping your back flat and gaze forwards. Pause, in the squat position, then push through your heels to rise back up to the starting position. Repeat 15 times.
This simple move is great for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles as well as your glutes. Lie on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, and your arms by your sides with your palms pressed into the floor. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and your glutes as you slowly lift your bottom off the floor until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Squeeze your glutes at the top and hold for five seconds. Slowly lower back to the start, then release your pelvic floor muscles and relax your glutes. Repeat this move 10 times.
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Lucy is an experienced health and fitness journalist, and was formerly health editor for TI Media’s portfolio of women’s titles. Lucy qualified as a level 3 personal trainer with Train Fitness in 2016, and also holds qualifications in pre- and post-natal fitness, as well as in nutrition for exercise.