5 Surprising Ways to Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor, Especially After 50
I loved my biology classes in middle and high school. And, while I devoured lectures on the heart, lungs, and intestines, we must have skipped the pelvic floor chapter. Did you, too? Turns out, it’s pretty essential, especially to make sure you pee when you want to and not when you don’t.
Your pelvic floor stretches across the bottom of your pelvis in a hammock-shape. It’s supposed to stay strong most of the time and then relax when you sit on the toilet. That’s why a weak pelvic floor can cause bladder leaks (aka incontinence). But you can absolutely strengthen it, even if pregnancy, childbirth, being overweight, and chronic constipation are working hard against you.
Want to know how? Read on.
A Personal Trainer for Your Pelvic Floor
A pelvic floor physical therapist is like a personal trainer for your bladder. They’re there to whip your pelvic floor into shape (or relax it if it’s too tight).
In addition to stretches and exercises, your pelvic floor PT may suggest internal vaginal manipulation and massage or even low-voltage electrical stimulation. They might also suggest biofeedback therapy, which lets them identify which of the 45 muscles in your pelvic floor need some coaxing to do their job.
But pelvic floor physical therapy takes time.
Keep on Living Your Life
Kudos to all the 50+ women out there running marathons. But, let’s be real: most of us are not even walking 26.2 miles a week at 50. The good news is that you don’t have to become a gym rat to work your pelvic floor muscles.
Have you climbed stairs or stepped on a foot stool recently? Or pushed or pulled your ottoman across the floor? Fantastic. You were exercising your pelvic floor. Lifting a heavy bag of groceries, standing up from your armchair, and even having sex do the trick too. So maybe stand up and sit down a few times every time you lounge on the couch. Or just get plenty of sessions in the sack.
Don’t Forget Your Kegels
Kegels are admittedly the least surprising way to strengthen your pelvic floor. Most of us have been told to do Kegels for years. But most women do them wrong! To take your Kegels up a notch, I have a few tips:
Don’t squeeze your bum
Sure, you might want to tone your behind. But accidentally squeezing your glutes won’t do much for bladder leaks or other pelvic floor issues. To make sure you’ve got the right muscles, imagine squeezing a tampon or a grape and pulling it inside you.
Go fast and slow
Not to get technical, but you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you exercise both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles in your pelvic floor. So, do a combination of “quick flicks” and longer contractions where you squeeze and lift gradually while you count to 10.
Empty your bladder
It’s harder to Kegel when your bladder is full. So, make a bathroom pit stop before your Kegel session.
It’s easiest to do Kegels while lying on your back, feet flat on the floor, and with knees bent. So start there and work your way up to doing Kegels while you’re in the car or at a dinner party. No one will ever know!
Don’t overdo it
Don’t squeeze as hard as you can, be sure to relax after every contraction, and ramp up slowly. You don’t have to do 500 Kegels each day to reduce bladder leaks.
That said, it can take a couple months to feel the full effects of Kegels.
Lily Bird is here for you in the meantime handing out 10-product $1.99 trials to find you the right bladder leak product for you.
Dumbbells for Your Vagina
Have you ever lifted weights with your vagina? It’s time to go there.
To use Kegel weights, you insert them into your vagina and then go about your routine for a few minutes while holding them in. Just like with bicep curls, you should start with lighter weights and shorter amounts of time.
A heads up: especially during and after menopause, the vaginal wall thins. So, you may want to use a water-based lube along with your Kegel weights.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
While Kegels might be the most common pelvic floor exercises, there are plenty of other pelvic floor exercises that also engage those muscles. Squats are a great one. So are bridge and split tabletop.
To do a bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on your floor. Then, lift your hips off the ground and keep your back straight. Hold your hips up for 10 seconds (or less at the start) and then lower your hips back down to the floor.
To do a split tabletop, lie on your back with your feet in the air, knees bent, so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your shins are parallel to the floor. Slowly split your legs, letting each knee fall outward, and then raise them back to the center.
2 Words to the Wise
Be patient, grasshopper. As with all exercise, it takes time to see results. So in the meantime, let Lily Bird back you up with pads and underwear for bladder leaks. You can get started with just 10 products for $1.99.
And remember: it is possible to overdo it and end up with a pelvic floor of steel, which isn’t a good thing. Just like a stressed out type-A student, hypertonic pelvic floors have a hard time relaxing. And that can make bladder leaks worse or sex painful. So, go slowly and keep your eye on the prize.
Ready to tell your bladder who’s boss?