When people think of kegels—if they think of them at all—they think of women. But this thinking is unfortunate because older men can benefit from doing the pelvic floor muscle-strengthening exercises, too. For men, they can help with some common issues associated with age, including urinary leakage, bowel issues and erection problems.
The pelvic floor is made up of thin layers of muscle and tissues that stretch like a sling from the tailbone to the pubic bone. The muscles’ main function is to support the abdomen, bladder and colon, and to help with urine and bowel movements. In men, these muscles also are called upon during erections, orgasms and ejaculations. If pelvic floor muscles become too weak or too tight, that’s when problems arise.
Age is the main culprit of weakening of these muscles, but other causes include bladder, bowel or prostate surgery, constipation and chronic coughing. Too tight pelvic floor muscles are usually the result of prolonged sitting, muscle tension, stress and musculoskeletal problems with the back and hips. When these muscles are too tight, they can trigger pelvic pain, urgent and frequent need to urinate, urine leakage, incomplete emptying or straining during bowel movements. There might also be sudden pain in the lower back, hips or genital area, or pain during and after intercourse.
Just like any other muscle, pelvic floor muscles must be strengthened to get them healthy. That’s where kegels come in. The beauty of kegels? They can be performed anywhere—while lying down, sitting behind a desk at work or standing in the grocery checkout line. Think about how to stop the flow or urine. The goal is to contract and hold only the pelvic floor muscles.
Before starting a kegels program, make sure there are no medical issues, such as prostate problems or a urinary tract infection. Then meet with a physical therapist who can teach the proper technique and design an individual routine, which typically consists of a set amount of hold time, followed by rest between reps.
Then head home and get to work. Get a jumpstart in the car!