Practice Makes Perfect: Making Your Kegel Exercises Effective

How often should you Kegel for maximum benefits?


This is Karlotta Davis. I am a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

I wanted to talk today about practice making perfect when doing Kegel contractions. Arnold Kegel was an obstetrician/gynecologist who published the first paper on doing exercises of the pelvic floor muscle. He demonstrated significant improvement in urinary incontinence in the patients who did perform the Kegel contractions.

So, why does practice make perfect? Arnold Kegel actually had patients do 600 contractions every day. I would not suggest that’s appropriate because we have no evidence that doing more than 25 contractions twice a day is less helpful than actually doing the 600 contractions a day.

Remembering to do your exercises

One of the challenges in a Kegel exercise program is how to remember to do them. A patient suggested to me that she took brightly colored sticky notes and would place them in areas of her house where she could see them frequently and remember to do the Kegels. I think this is an excellent idea, whether you use a big Post-It note or a small flag, it makes no difference. The visual reminder of having sticky notes is going to help you remember to do them.

Making your exercises effective

Once you have a strong Kegel contraction, there are a couple of tricks to actually making it work. The University of Michigan has proven that if you do a squeeze – or a Kegel contraction – with a cough, laugh or sneeze, you can decrease the amount of leakage.

So, essentially, it is the timing of the Kegel that is the most important when you have stress urinary incontinence, which is the type of incontinence that occurs with a cough, laugh or sneeze.

Urge incontinence, which is the sudden desire to go urgently and frequently to the bathroom, is a type of contraction that you can avert or make smaller if you do a Kegel contraction. What I would suggest is that you think to yourself as you’re having the urge come on that you’re in control. Let that be your mantra: “I am in control, I am in control.” That’s a positive statement that will help you focus, not on how badly you have the urge to go, but on something else.

As you’re saying to yourself “I am in control,” keep doing strong Kegel contractions. There are studies that have shown that the strength of that contraction is smaller and, likewise, you’ll be able to make it to the bathroom in time and not wet your pants.

Remember, practice makes perfect

So, these are my tricks for doing Kegel contractions and remember, practice makes perfect. As a flutist, I have thousands and thousands of hours of practice under my belt; you have to learn how to play a scale before you can learn how to play a Mozart sonata. I would suggest that you make this a part of your daily life and continue to work on it: practice makes perfect.

University of Colorado Urogynecology is a specialty women’s health practice focused on female pelvic health and surgery. Our physicians are also professors & researchers for the CU School of Medicine, one of the top-ranked medical schools in the nation.

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