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The pelvic floor muscles are a group of different ligaments and muscles that support the uterus, bladder and bowel. These muscles attach to the tail bone and pubic bone. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles helps to prevent incontinence, and prolapse of the bladder, bowel and uterus. These muscles also help to control bowel and bladder function.
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What Causes These Muscles to Weaken?
- Excessive coughing
- Being overweight
- Persistent heavy lifting
- Menopause-related hormone level changes
- Spinal problems
- High impact exercise
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Benefits of Strengthening These Muscles
Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles has a variety of benefits. These include:
- Overcoming incontinence
- Supporting the baby when pregnant
- Increased sexual sensation
- Reduced risk of prolapse
- Preparing for birth and recovering from it
- Helping to support and stabilize the spine
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This exercise is something most people can do, but anyone performing this or any new exercise should consult a physician first to ensure that it's physically safe to do so.
Begin this exercise by either standing straight up, on your hands and knees or lying on your back with knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Now, squeeze your muscles the same way you would if you were trying to hold your urine. You should be feeling these muscles tighten and feel them working. Now, tighten these muscles around your vagina, front passage and back towards your buttocks. Do this as strong as you can without discomfort and hold this for three to five seconds. Then, relax completely for five seconds. After your five seconds of relaxing, do this all over again. If you can, hold this exercise for up to eight seconds at a time with five seconds in between. You can do up to three sets each day.
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Begin this exercise by either standing straight up, on your hands and knees or lying on your back with knees bent and feet planted on the floor. In this exercise you will squeeze and then lift these muscles as quickly and strongly as you possible can. Do not hold the contraction, but let go right after squeezing. Rest for five seconds in between each. This exercise should be repeated ten to twenty times maximum. When you begin, just do this exercise as many times as you can, up to twenty times. Do not push too hard and if any discomfort occurs, immediately stop this and all pelvic floor exercises.
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How Often Should I Perform These Exercises?
The above pelvic floor exercises can be performed every day. At minimum, these exercises should be done at least four days a week. You can also do these exercises as you are walking or performing other similar activities throughout the day.
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MayoClinic.com. (2010). Kegel Exercises: A How-To Guide for Women. Retrieved on September 14, 2010 from MayoClinic.com: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kegel-exercises/WO00119
The Royal Women's Hospital. (2010). Pelvic Floor Exercises. Retrieved on September 14, 2010 from The Royal Women's Hospital: http://www.thewomens.org.au/Pelvicfloorexercises
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Pregnant woman: Jamie Grill - Getty Images