Stop Peeing Yourself During Workouts: The Science Behind Stress Urinary Incontinence

The Pelvic Floor – What Is It?

Pelvic floor refers to the muscles that surround your bladder, uterus, rectum and other organs in your body. These muscles are responsible for controlling urination and defecation. They include the pelvic floor muscles (PGM), the lower abdominal wall muscle (LAMB) and the hip flexors (HIP).

In addition to these three major groups, there are smaller muscles that surround and support various parts of the body. These include the perineal muscles (peri- or perineum), the skin folds around the genitals and vulva, and some connective tissue that surrounds bones such as knees, ankles and toes.

These muscles play a role in many bodily functions including sexual function. When they become weak, it causes problems such as urinary incontinence.

What Are the Problems With Weak Pelvic Floor?

Weak pelvic floor means that these muscles are not strong enough to control urination and defecation. This results in leakage of urine from the urethra into the stool or feces. You may also experience pain while passing urine due to weakness of LAMB and HIP muscles.

With weak pelvic floor muscles, you are prone to several conditions and diseases. These include:

Urinary incontinence – This condition is characterized by involuntary loss of urine. It may be acute or chronic. In extreme cases, it may lead to bed-wetting in old people. It is common in women than in men.

About 40% of women suffer from urinary incontinence as they age, compared to 17% among men. [1, 2]

Constipation and Fecal incontinence – Leakage of stool may also happen due to weak pelvic floor muscles. About 4-17% of people suffer from this condition. As many as 20% of elderly people are unable to control their bowel movements in public toilets. The condition known as fecal incontinence also causes soiling of undergarments or underwear.

It can be embarrassing and result in low self-esteem or depression.

Pain during child birth – Weak pelvic floor muscles make difficult to push the baby during labor. This may cause prolonged agony or a C-section delivery.

Prolapse of pelvic organs – Weak muscles make it easy for pelvic organs to fall down or protrude. This condition is known as prolapse and it occurs in women than men. This may lead to pain during sexual activity or while sitting. Men may suffer from erectile dysfunction due to weak pelvic floor muscles.

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Prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence, constipation and other conditions are possible through Kegel exercises. These are also known as pelvic floor exercises. They involve contraction and relaxation of your pelvic floor muscles.

How Do Kegel Exercises Work?

Kegel exercises work by making the pelvic floor muscles stronger. This makes it easy for you to stop the flow of urine when you sneeze, cough or run. It also improves urinary flow and prevents incontinence.

Kegel exercises are simple to perform. You only need to contract and relax your pelvic floor muscles repeatedly. You can do these exercises anywhere, while sitting, standing or lying down. You can do several sets of 10 reps each day to get the best results.

How Effective Are Kegel Exercises?

These exercises have been proven very effective at strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. They are easy to perform and don’t require special equipment.

However, these exercises also have some limitations that one should be aware of. These include:

Doing the wrong exercises – There are several myths about Kegel exercises. Some people believe that these exercises involve tightening the buttocks, abdomen or thighs. This is not true; they involve only the pelvic floor muscles. Others incorrectly believe that doing breath control makes them more effective.

This could not be further from the truth. In fact, women with urinary incontinence problem are advised to only breathe normally while doing Kegel exercises.

Using Kegel machines – These devices are sold with the promise of fast and permanent results. While some people may benefit from these machines, other may get no relief at all. This could be due to using the wrong machine or just ineffective technology. You should stick to simple exercises for better results.

Doing the exercises wrong – As long as you stick to the basic technique of contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles, you should get good results. However, you should avoid holding your breath or clenching your teeth while doing these exercises.

Benefits of Kegel Exercises

Strengthens the pelvic floor muscles – As the saying goes, use it or lose it! If you don’t use your muscles, they’ll become weak and you’ll suffer from conditions like urinary incontinence or vaginal prolapse. Kegel exercises can help reverse the process and prevent these conditions.

Proper flow of energy in the body – Some people believe that Kegel exercises can improve the flow of energy in the body. This is a controversial theory as there is no scientific evidence to prove it.

Help in childbirth – If you’re planning a pregnancy, you can benefit from the strength and control that these exercises provide.

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How to Do Kegel Exercises (Step by Step)

Here are the steps that you should follow:

Find the right muscles – The first step is to find your pelvic floor muscles. To do this, try to stop the flow of urine when you’re urinating. This will involve use of the pelvic floor muscles. You should stop the flow of urine with a tight feeling in your pelvic floor muscles.

This is the feeling that you should try to replicate while doing these exercises.

Isolate the muscles – Once you’ve found the right muscles, you need to practice using these muscles alone. This means you don’t tighten any other muscle in your body, focusing only on the pelvic floor muscles.

Relax the muscles – Once you’ve tightened the muscles, you need to relax them again. Your aim is to build up your pelvic floor muscles and if you’re constantly tightening other muscles in your body, this defeats the purpose.

Repeat – The whole process should be repeated 10 times at a time at least 3 times a day. You should also try to do these exercises when you have a bit of time so you can do them multiple times in a row.

Doing these exercises at least 3 times a day is important as the muscles will weaken when you’re not using them regularly. You should also increase the number of repetitions and the length of each session as your abilities improve.

Practice makes perfect!

Don’t be discouraged by the number of repetitions you need to do in order to see improvement. Your muscles were not developed over night and neither will they strengthen if you don’t put in a little work.

In addition, it’s important to remember that your diet has a direct effect on how well these exercises work. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet will give your body all the nutrients it needs to repair and rebuild itself. If you’re not eating right, you won’t see the same benefits of doing kegel exercises.

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Common Myths About Kegel Exercises

There are many myths about kegel exercises that deter people from trying them out. Many people are too embarrassed to try them because they believe they don’t work or that they’re a sexual act. If you have these beliefs, it’s important to do some research and learn the truth behind these myths.

Here are a few myths about kegel exercises and the truths behind them.

Kegel exercises are just for women – As we mentioned in the introduction, men can benefit from doing kegel exercises too. Whether you’re a man or a woman, Kegel exercises can improve your urinary and fecal incontinence and in some cases even premature ejaculation! Kegel exercises can also improve your sexual experience as well.

Kegel exercises are just for pregnant women – Pregnant women benefit the most from doing these exercises because their body goes through a variety of changes that can have an effect on their bladder. For instance, kegel exercises can help delay the need to urinate. The same cannot be said for men and women who are not pregnant because the muscles don’t change in the same way.

Kegel exercises are just for older people – As our muscles get older, they start to weaken. By doing kegel exercises on a regular basis, you can delay this process and keep your muscles in shape.

Kegel exercises can cause premature ejaculation – For men who suffer from premature ejaculation, doing kegels can actually help you last longer during sexual activity. The reason for this is because kegel exercises improve urinary and fecal incontinence. By doing these exercises, one can build up the pelvic floor muscles to the point where they can control the bladder and bowel movements. The same goes for women.

By building up these muscles, a woman can have more control over her body and sexual experience.

This is not an exhaustive list of myths about kegel exercises. If you have heard another myth about these exercises, it’s best if you do your own research on it.

How can Kegel exercises be dangerous?

If you have any of the conditions mentioned in the introduction, it’s best if you consult with your physician before starting a kegel exercise routine. Too much of anything can be bad for you so make sure you don’t overdo it. Start out with two sets of ten and add one set every few days. Once you reach a point where you feel like you can’t go anymore, stop and wait a few days before doing it again.

The dangers of kegel exercises mainly revolve around over-doing the exercises. There is a chance that you could injure yourself if you push yourself too hard. Pain is a sign that you need to take a rest. If the pain persists, you should probably see a physician because you may have caused some serious damage below the belt!

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Most of the time, there are no ill effects from doing kegel exercises. Unlike weight lifting, you won’t bulk up and you won’t get any unwanted hair growth (this is a myth, but it’s still a concern for some people).

You should always consult with your physician before starting a new exercise routine. Especially if you’re older or have a medical condition of some sort.

The good thing about kegel exercises is that it’s a low impact exercise routine that can yield big results. Whether you want to improve your sexual experience, urinary incontinence, or simply want to delay the effects of aging, kegel exercises work!

It’s best not to think too much and just get started. Don’t worry about what others might think because the only opinion that matters is yours. If you think it’s silly to do squats in front of a mirror, then don’t. The only person whose opinion matters is yours and if you believe in yourself, then that’s all that really counts.

Chapter 3

Kegel Exercises for Men

There aren’t as many myths about men doing kegel exercises because they were once considered to be a girly exercise. However, in recent years more and more men are doing kegel exercises to improve their sexual performance.

There are several reasons why men should incorporate kegel exercises into their daily routines.

Here are some of the benefits:

1. Improved Erections – This benefit is why most men start doing kegel exercises in the first place.

By doing these exercises on a regular basis, one can expect an improvement in the quality and length of erections. Weak erections are often the first sign of ill-health and most men, even young men, suffer from this condition in some way. There are many factors that contribute to achieving and maintaining a good erection including stress, anxiety and poor diet. Kegel exercises can actually help remedy this situation

2. Last Longer During Intercourse – Men often complain that they “peed their wad” too quickly during sexual activity.

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They’d like to “hold out” longer before climaxing. Kegel exercises can be of great benefit to men who suffer from premature ejaculation. It’s a simple matter of strengthening the pelvic floor muscles with regular kegel exercise. The muscles learn to control the flow of seminal fluid that leads to a more intense and pleasurable sexual experience.

Last longer in bed naturally without using drugs or devices.

3. A Stronger Orgasm – Men are always seeking a way to enhance their sexual performance and experience.

Kegel exercises can have the extra benefit of producing a more intense and satisfying orgasms.

4. Help with Erectile Dysfunction – As men get older, they often suffer from some form of erectile dysfunction whether it’s poor quality or inability to achieve an erection.

Kegel exercises are actually one of the ways to remedy this condition. By doing kegel exercises, one can actually increase blood flow to this region and help overcome the problem of being unable to achieve an erection.

5. Help During Prostate Surgery – Men who are scheduled for a prostate surgery often have to do kegel exercises in order to rehabilitate the muscles after the surgery.

It’s also a good idea to do these exercises before and after any prostate treatment like pills or hormone therapy in order to prevent complications.

6. Prevent Incontinence – As men get older, one of the problems they often suffer from is urinary incontinence.

This is the leaking of urine when one coughs or stretches. This is embarrassing and can even be socially limiting in some cases. Kegel exercises are very effective in preventing these problems in most men.

7. Stronger Urinary Flow – The pelvic floor muscles control the flow of urine from the bladder.

If these muscles are weak, a man will have a weak urinary stream. This can also contribute to urinary incontinence. By strengthening these muscles, one can actually have a stronger and more forceful urinary stream.

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8. Prevent and Treat Prostate Enlargement – Prostate enlargement is a problem that effects many men as they get older.

This leads to urinary symptoms like frequent urination, a weak urinary stream and a need to urinate at night. Kegel exercises are very useful for preventing this condition and even reversing the effects in some cases.

9. Prevent Erectile Dysfunction – As men get older, they often suffer from sexual dysfunction and are unable to achieve or maintain an erection.

This can lead to low self-esteem and depression. A man will often worry that he is losing his virility and sexual attractiveness. Kegel exercises can actually help prevent this condition in some men and even treat the problem in some cases.

10. Better Sexual Performance – Kegel exercises can actually help improve a man’s sexual performance. This is often not the primary reason why men do these exercises. However, few men can resist the idea of having better control over their orgasms and being able to have stronger ones.

11. Prevent Incontinence in Women – As women get older, they also suffer from incontinence problems. This is due to a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. Kegel exercises can help prevent this condition in women as well.

12. Better Control Over Your Bowel Movements – Similar to the problem incontinence in women, many people have problems with diarrhea and even constipation. This is often due to a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. Kegel exercises can help to prevent or even cure these conditions.

How To Do Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises can easily be done anywhere without anyone being aware of what you’re doing. Most men do these exercises while sitting in a chair reading a book. However, you can also do them while watching TV, listening to music or even talking to other people. The only issue that may arise is if you start laughing while doing the exercises.

You should never feel any pain when doing the exercises. If you do feel pain, you are either straining yourself too much or you may have a physical condition which prevents you from doing the exercises.

To perform Kegel exercises, simply contract the muscles of the pelvic floor. You don’t need to actually stop urination in order to do these exercises. In fact, if you’re urinating, it’s best if you don’t squeeze those muscles as you could end up doing something unfortunate.

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Once you’ve identified the right muscles, start flexing and relaxing them repeatedly. In between each set, you need to rest the muscles. Don’t overdo it as this can be damaging. It’s best to start with a few repetitions in each set and gradually work your way up to more when your muscles have had a chance to adapt.

It may take a week or two before you notice any difference or improvement in your muscle control. You may even doubt that this is working. However, keep at it as eventually you’ll notice the difference.

When doing these exercises, try to flex the muscles without actually thinking about it. In other words, you should be flexing the muscles on a subconscious level. This will ensure that you’re always able to work on these muscles even when you’re not actually doing the exercises.

While kegel exercises can be very beneficial, they are not a replacement for medical care. You should always seek the advice of a physician before starting any new exercise routine.

If you have female loved ones in your life, make sure to pass this information on to them as well as they’ll also benefit from these exercises.

Sources & references used in this article:

Stigmatizing a “normal” condition: urinary incontinence in late life by LS Mitteness, JC Barker – Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 1995 – Wiley Online Library

Stress Urinary Incontinence in Collegiate Female Athletes: Prevalence and Impact by M Bouchard – 2018 – repository.usfca.edu

Day wetting by SR Meadow – Pediatric Nephrology, 1990 – Springer

Some social consequences of non-compliance with pelvic floor exercises by PD Ashworth, MT Hagan – Physiotherapy, 1993 – Elsevier

Urinary incontinence in young nulligravid women: a cross-sectional analysis by T O’halloran, RJ Bell, PJ Robinson… – Annals of internal …, 2012 – acpjournals.org

Continence Index: a new screening questionnaire to predict the probability of future incontinence in older women in the community by AC Diokno, T Ogunyemi, MR Siadat… – … urology and nephrology, 2015 – Springer