Five good reasons why every woman should exercise her pelvic floor muscles
A strong pelvic floor is an essential to lifelong physical, sexual and emotional health. Yet the pelvic floor is often neglected by fitness experts. A simple programme of pelvic floor exercises can be the answer. Why?
1. They are the best way of beating stress incontinence
One in three women who have ever had a baby experience stress incontinence at some point in their lives, when ordinary activities such as laughing, sneezing or jumping cause them to lose small amounts of urine. Sometimes the symptoms appear immediately after delivery, but for many women, years pass before they notice they have a problem.
Fortunately, it isn't necessary to wear pads for ever. Over two-thirds of women who try pelvic floor exercises 'and do them properly 'are cured of their stress incontinence, without the need for drugs or surgery.
2. They improve sexual response
The pelvic floor muscles are directly responsible for the amount of sensation a woman feels during intercourse, and for the amount of grip felt by her partner.
Exercise improves muscle tone which means that the muscle is tighter, so is stretched more during intercourse. Strong, firm muscles have more nerve endings, and more nerve endings mean more sensations.
Rhythmic contractions of the pelvic floor contribute to arousal the ability to achieve orgasm. Many women report they are able to reach orgasm more easily, and that their orgasms are more powerful, after a pelvic floor exercise program.
3. They contribute to an easier labor and better recovery after childbirth
Over half of pregnant woman experience stress incontinence, with symptoms commonly persisting for a year after the birth. Even twelve months later, one woman in five still has symptoms that will worsen over the years.
Pelvic floor strengthening exercises, either before or during early pregnancy, can significantly reduce the risk of stress incontinence later. Research shows that the strength of the pelvic floor at twenty weeks of pregnancy is an excellent indicator of the likelihood of stress incontinence later.
And the best news of all for pregnant women is that a pelvic floor exercise program during pregnancy has been shown to have a positive effect on labor.
4. They are an excellent defense against urge incontinence, common amongst women in their later years
Urge incontinence is the most common form of incontinence in women over 70, leading to major unwanted changes in lifestyle for many women, and even to nursing home admission.
Urge incontinence is a complex problem, with many contributing factors, but a strong pelvic floor increases the chances of successful treatment if it does occur. So commitment to a program of effective pelvic floor exercises in earlier decades can be a woman's best defense against incontinence in old age.
5. They are a vital factor in total fitness
The pelvic floor muscles are hidden from view and can be a significant weakness in an otherwise healthy toned body. Many women who pride themselves on high levels of aerobic fitness are shocked to find that their pelvic floor can let them down in their middle years. Ironically female athletes need to pay particular attention to their pelvic floor muscles as their sporting activities place even more stress on the pelvic floor than day-to-day activities. Yet many fitness trainers neglect the pelvic floor.
Fortunately women can take control of this area of their body for themselves. Pelvic floor fitness needs personal commitment, and access to quality information. But, given these factors, most women can achieve it through a program of exercise, supported when necessary by the use of well-chosen exercise and strengthening products.
Read more at Pelvic Floor Exercise.
About the Author
Linda McClelland is the director of Australia's only one-stop pelvic floor exercise business, Pelvic Floor Exercise, providing resources, products, and links to research and practitioners. She is an information specialist, and has worked in women's health services for over 16 years.