We always hear that men are hopeless at looking after our own health, that women are far more conscientious, so occasionally we need a little push along to perhaps extend our time here or make it a little more pleasant.
When you are married to a trained nurse/midwife, those little push-alongs occur regularly, almost to the point of being nagged. My wife began nagging me about going to a doctor not long after we were married. I was in my late 20s and the only ailments I suffered were an annual cold and too frequent self-inflicted headaches and hangovers. (Maybe you can relate to this)
I’m still healthy 40 years later, but now I visit a doctor annually for a range of blood tests and my wife has convinced me to do my pelvic floor exercises, all aimed at prevention.
Initially, I thought pelvic floor exercises were for women whose little muscle had weakened during pregnancy and birthing. However, my wife convinced me that it’s also an important exercise for men.
So, what is a pelvic floor?
Pelvic floor is a convenient term for a group of muscles that form the base of the abdomen, attached to the bony pelvis. They are shaped like a sling and run from the pubic bone to the tailbone (coccyx) and from side to side. In men they have two holes, one for the anus and the other for the urethra. (An additional one for the vagina in women)
When the pelvic muscles are working efficiently, they tighten around both the urethra and anus and are critical for bowel and bladder control. They give us control of our bowel and bladder movements. When they weaken with age, it’s possible to suffer incontinence.
You have been using your pelvic floor muscles most of your life, and although conscious of using them, may not know what they are called or how important they are in preventing incontinence.
If they are weak you may have problems either with total incontinence or typically, dribbling after urinating when the muscles fail to properly stem the flow.
It’s not all bad news however, as with a little time and effort – not much really – you can tone your pelvic floor and either ensure you don’t suffer incontinence or reduce its impact.
Here are the exercises:
At least once per day, or more often if you wish, contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold for three seconds and then release. Do several repetitions.
If your muscles are in good condition, it will probably be a breeze, so choose a higher number up to 10 seconds or more if you wish to be a star.
Continue this daily routine until you can hold your pelvic floor muscles contracted for 10 seconds at the end of the day while standing. If you can do that, you are probably doing okay for an old fellow (you are over 60 aren’t you?).
Doing it at end of day is a better test because everything tends to sag during the day as gravity takes over, which means there is more downward pressure on your pelvic floor.
If you find it hard to contract the muscles and hold while standing, try it lying down (perhaps first thing in the morning before getting out of bed) because the pressure is off. As you progress, do it more frequently when standing up.
The aim is to be able to contract your pelvic floor for at least 10 seconds. And you can do it anywhere – nobody knows when you are doing it, unlike in the gym where everyone can watch.
If you want to stave off incontinence, this is the way to do it.