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LA CROSSE, Wis. — Women often are told about the importance of Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles. It turns out that men should think about doing the exercises as well.
Statistics show that 32% of women will have at least one pelvic floor disorder (PFD) at one time in their life. However, a recent study suggests that although much attention is directed toward women pelvic floor disorders, 16% of men have also been identified with pelvic floor disorders.
Pelvic floor muscles span the bottom of the pelvis and support the internal pelvic organs. In men, this includes the bladder, prostate and rectum. The muscles also wrap tightly around the anus and urethra.
"Pelvic floor muscles can weaken in men for a variety of reasons," says Deb Grabowski, physical therapist at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse. "Diabetes, an overactive bladder or prostate surgery are some of the most common, but being overweight, persistent heavy lifting, smoker's cough, asthma and high-impact exercise could cause issues."
When done correctly, Grabowski says Kegel exercises can offer many benefits for men.
"Any exercise to strengthen muscles involves squeezing or contracting and releasing or lengthening. The exercises are simple, and are done by intentionally contracting and releasing the pelvic floor muscles," explains Angela Imhoff, physical therapist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska. "Stronger pelvic muscles can help improve urinary hesitation, constipation, emptying your bladder and sexual function, among other things."
The first step in strengthening the pelvic muscles is by finding the right muscles to work, as about 40% of people don't perform a Kegel correctly the first time.
"The outer layer of pelvic floor muscles assists with stopping the flow of urine. To ensure you're contracting the right muscles, stop urination in midstream. You shouldn't do this often, at most once per month. Another option is to lie down and place a hand on the perineum. This is the area between the rectum and scrotum. Your hand will feel the perineum lift slightly as you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles," suggests Grabowski.
Imhoff says men should work on tightening their pelvic floor muscles for three or four seconds, and then relax for an entire breath. It's important to get the full contraction and lengthening of each exercise.
"Don't rush or flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. As your muscles get stronger, then gradually increase each contraction to 10 seconds," Grabowski suggests. "It's best to dedicate quiet time to focus on your Kegel reps. This minimizes the chance of forgetting to do them and helps you contract your muscles correctly. Like other exercises, the results from Kegels are better the more often you do them. Aim to do four sets of 10 reps for a total of 40 Kegels per day."
Some people with urinary incontinence restrict the amount of water they drink, which can cause other bothersome conditions or symptoms, Imhoff says. That can cause constipation, fatigue or bladder irritation. She offers that both men and women should drink at least 64 ounces of water each day.
"If you have trouble doing Kegel exercises, don't feel embarrassed to ask for help. A physical therapist can help you isolate and identify the correct muscles using biofeedback to strengthen the appropriate muscles," says Imhoff.
For more information:
Media: Click here for video/audio recorded interview with Denise Grabowski regarding Kegel exercises for men and women available for media use
About Mayo Clinic Health System
Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality physical and virtual health care close to home.
About Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse
In 2022, Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse is the only health care facility in Southwest Wisconsin that has received the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid's 5-Star Quality Rating and Leapfrog Grade A for Safety. It was also named one of Newsweek's Best Hospitals in the U.S. and high-performing in five medical conditions and specialties by U.S. News & World Report.
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