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March 26, 2016
Table of Contents

1 Introduction
Five reasons why women don't do the pelvic floor exercises they should - and five solutions

by Linda McClelland


Many women know that regular pelvic floor exercises are vital for their long-term physical sexual and emotional health, yet they still don't do them. There are five common reasons for not exercising…and five solutions!

1. I don't know how to do them

Read one of the excellent online leaflets or buy a book. Talk to a health practitioner, a continence nurse, a physical therapist, or a women's health centre. All of these services are there to help, but ultimately a woman needs to take the first step for herself.

2. I tried but I can't do them

The "squeeze and lift" technique involved in strengthening the pelvic floor is a tricky one to master. Even a visit to a doctor or other health practitioner may not be the answer for many women. In fact research shows that over 50% of women can't produce an effective squeeze of the pelvic floor muscles based on verbal instructions alone.

There are many excellent guides to pelvic floor exercising, both online and in printed leaflets and books. A number of well-designed products are also available that provide feedback and reassurance that the correct squeezing technique is being used. Remember that successful exercising takes practice and persistence, and be kind to yourself while you learn.

3. I've done them in the past but they didn't make any difference

Done properly, pelvic floor exercises will always improve the strength of even the most untoned pelvic floor muscles. But many women find it hard to do them regularly enough and for long enough, and then become discouraged when they don't seem to see a result. Experts agree that a pelvic floor exercise program, involving daily exercising, must be followed for at least six weeks before any difference becomes noticeable. Twelve weeks is the usual minimum for an effective result for most women.

But the exercises also need to be done properly. Dr Arnold Kegel, who developed the concept of the pelvic floor "lift and squeeze" exercise technique in the 1950s, never intended the exercises to be done on an empty vagina. Somewhere along the way, his message has become distorted and many women are told to do just that, causing them to feel they have failed when their exercising doesn't result in any improvement. Research has clearly demonstrated that most women benefit from using an exercise device, such as perineometers, vaginal balls, and weights.

So the solution is simple: choose the best device, commit to giving the exercise program the time it deserves… and there definitely will be a difference!

4. I don't have the time

It's true that women find it hard to fit in time for themselves in their busy lives, but it's possible to make it easier. Women who use simple tricks such as setting an alarm clock to signal daily exercise time are much more likely to stick to their program. The amount of time that's needed varies according to a woman's existing pelvic floor fitness. Women who are time-poor but have low levels of pelvic floor fitness can use products such as vaginal weights, which can be worn for 20 minutes a day while undertaking normal household activities.

Women who can already successfully contract their pelvic floor muscles but are seeking to build higher levels of fitness will need to set aside specific exercise time to use a perineometer. But they can also supplement their dedicated exercise time, by doing squeeze and lift contractions throughout the day. Exercise can become part of a daily routine, with women reporting that they squeeze and lift whilst waiting at traffic lights, whilst talking on the phone or standing at the kitchen sink.

5. I've never heard of them

Some women, particularly older women, still say that they've never heard of pelvic floor exercises. It's true that humans are not born knowing how to exercise the pelvic floor, and it is not a part of the body that is challenged during day-to-day activities. So women have relied on finding out at appropriate stages during their lives, often from those who care for them during pregnancy and childbirth, and during their menopausal years.

But nowadays, we are less shy about discussing pelvic health and we have more understanding of its important. Increasing awareness of the vital role played by a strong pelvic floor muscles will hopefully ensure that the message reaches future generations of women while they are still young.

Read more at Pelvic Floor Exercise.

About the Author

Linda McClelland is the director of Australia's only one-stop pelvic floor exercise business, Pelvic Floor Exercise, providing resources, products, and links to research and practitioners. She is an information specialist, and has worked in women's health services for over 16 years.

Last Modified:   2005-12-30

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