Incontinence affects so many over 60s – in fact 1 in 3 of us will suffer it at some time in our lives. Yet, many of us don’t take steps to strengthening one area of the body we really should: the pelvic floor.
According to physiotherapist Michelle Kenway, many women don’t realise that pelvic floor exercises can help manage and overcome a range of pelvic floor problems including prolapse symptoms, bladder or bowel leakage and even constipation.
How to find your pelvic floor
Before we move in to some strengthening exercises, you might be wondering where your pelvic floor actually is.
To find it and get the most out of these exercises, simply sit upright on a firm chair or on an exercise ball. Then, lean forward and support your upper body by placing your hand close to your knees.
Next, squeeze in like you are holding in a wee, then release. These are pelvic floor exercises, and involve repeatedly contracting and then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles around the anus, vagina and urethra (urine tube).
These exercises should not feel uncomfortable, though if you do feel discomfort, you should see your doctor.
Getting the technique right is the most important part of the pelvic floor muscle exercises as there is no point doing them if you are not doing them correctly.
Here’s 5 tips to start strengthening your pelvic floor muscles.
1. Imagine letting go like you would to pass urine or to pass wind. Let your stomach muscles relax and see if you can squeeze in and hold the muscles inside the pelvis while you breathe. Nothing above the belly button should tighten or tense. Some tensing and flattening of the lower part of the abdominal wall will happen.
2. Try tightening your muscles really gently to feel just the pelvic floor muscles lifting and squeezing in. If you cannot feel your muscles contracting, change your position and try again i.e. if you can’t feel your muscles contracting in a seated position, try lying down or standing up instead.
3. Try holding the inward squeeze for longer (up to 10 seconds) before relaxing. Make sure you can breathe easily while you squeeze. If you can do this exercise, repeat it up to 10 times.
4. Try to strengthen against everyday forces that can weaken your pelvic floor like coughing, sneezing or laughing. The next time you need to cough, prepare by squeezing and lifting your pelvic floor muscles and try to keep them lifted up against the downward force of your cough.
5. Perform 1-3 sets of pelvic floor exercise every day – the best part is you can do it anywhere!
Share your thoughts below.