Your pelvic floor muscles sit at the base of your pelvis. They help to keep your bladder, uterus, vagina and bowel (pelvic organs) in the right place. Your pelvic floor muscles should be kept strong and active, just like any other muscle.
All bladder and bowel functions need good pelvic floor muscles. For example, when you need to go to the toilet, you use your pelvic floor muscles to prevent any leaks. Then, you will fully relax them to pass urine when you physically get to the toilet.
Strong pelvic floor muscles boost your core strength and stability. They can improve your sexual function too.
Life events like having a baby or ageing can impact your pelvic floor muscles. But it's never too early or late to start exercising these muscles. Pelvic floor issues are not an inevitable part of ageing. Maintaining a strong pelvic floor may help prevent issues in the future.
How to exercise your pelvic floor muscles
There are a few different ways to exercise your pelvic floor.
When doing your pelvic floor exercises, start off in a comfortable position. For example, sitting or lying down. As you get more practice with the exercise, you can try these exercises in different positions, such as standing, walking or bending.
To exercise your pelvic floor, you should:
- Close the back passage (as if you are trying to stop yourself from passing wind but try not to clench your buttocks).
- Try to squeeze your vaginal muscles up and in – try not to pull your stomach in when you're doing this.
- Do a combination of both long and short squeezes.
- Squeeze and hold the muscles tight – you should try to hold for around 10 seconds, but you might have to work up to this. Try to find the length of time that is right for you to start with, which might only be a few seconds.
- Relax fully and breathe normally for about 5 seconds.
- Try to do 10 repetitions with a full relaxation in between each. Relaxation is just as important as the actual exercise for building a strong pelvic floor.
- Squeeze your pelvic muscles tight and hold for 1 second.
- Relax fully (like with the long squeezes), breathing normally as you rest.
- Aim for up to 10 ‘lift and let go’ contractions.
How often you should exercise pelvic floor muscles
You should aim to complete 10 of each exercise (10 long and 10 short squeezes) 3 times per day. You might not to be able to do this straight away, but you can build up to it.
Do not be put off if you don’t see an improvement straight away. It may take several weeks to notice an improvement. Pelvic floor use is a lifetime habit.
There are apps available online designed to help you make pelvic floor exercises part of your daily routine.