Are you afraid to sneeze, laugh, or heaven forbid, do a jumping jack, for fear of letting out a little bit of urine? Well, you’re not alone. Millions of people suffer from a condition called stress incontinence—involuntarily leaks of urine—and most of them are women. While many things can cause stress incontinence, such as surgery or obesity, the most common cause is childbirth. You might be hard pressed to find a mother who hasn’t experienced some degree of stress incontinence, and unfortunately symptoms can appear either immediately after birth or years later. Stress incontinence can be frustrating and, at times, embarrassing. While it’s nothing to be ashamed of, it can certainly be irritating.
It’s Not Permanent
Here is the good news: it can be corrected. I remember after my first child was born the shock of starting back at exercise and leaking a little with each jumping move I made. Worried that this would be a long-term problem, I did some homework. I have been able to maintain my pelvic floor muscles through these suggestions. Here are two simple steps to improve stress incontinence on your own.
1. Learn How To Do A Kegel
The first step in improving stress incontinence is all about identifying and engaging your pelvic floor muscles. To do this, you’ll practice a kegel. You may have heard of this incognito move, as it’s easy to perform throughout he day without anyone being the wiser. Never done one? We’ll explain how.
- To identify your pelvic floor muscles, engage the muscles you would to stop urination midstream. These are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Try tightening and relaxing those muscles for five seconds at a time; then work up to 10 seconds at a time.
- Breathe freely as you tighten and relax.
You’re kegel-ing, baby! The Mayo Clinic says kegel exercises can be done during pregnancy or after childbirth to try and prevent urinary incontinence. Now that you know how to kegel, aim for at least three sets of 10 kegels per day. Remember, they are an invisible exercise so you can do them any time, anywhere! Do them at a stoplight. Do them washing dishes. Do them standing in line at a store. Done consistently, the kegel can significantly strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and improve incontinence.
2. Engage Your Pelvic Floor Muscles In Pilates-Based Exercises
Now that you know how to engage your pelvic floor muscles, practice engaging them through other exercises. When you engage your pelvic floor in the following Pilates-based exercises, it can not only help with your incontinence, but improve your sexual health and core stability, too. Pilates is based on movements that practice core control and stability. Every pilates exercise uses carefully controlled movements, and as such, it’s a natural form of exercise to turn to if you want to strengthen your pelvic floor.
A) Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor close to glutes. Place arms flat on the floor next to you, tucking your shoulders under your back—align knees with hip bones.
B) As you inhale, press palms down as you lift your hips high, inhale, and squeeze your pelvic floor. Hold for 10 seconds.
C) Release your hips down, exhale, and release your pelvic floor.
B) Reach one arm long, drawing in the abdominals and releasing the pelvic floor as you extend the opposite leg long behind you for a count of 10.
A) Lie on back with knees bent at 90 degrees and arms lengthened alongside calves.
B) Inhale, engaging the pelvic floor and stretching your arms behind your head and legs, straight to a diagonal position in front.
C) As you exhale, release your pelvic floor muscles and circle arms back to legs while drawing knees back in to the 90 degree angle.
A) Lie on your stomach with legs and arms extended. Engage your abdominals and pull in your pelvic floor so you feel your transverse abdominis contract. (It is crucial to keep these muscles pulled in during the exercise!)
B) Lift your arms and legs off the floor and keep your nose in a hover above the mat. Flutter your arms and legs quickly, moving from the hips and shoulders (not the knees and elbows). Count and breathe as you flutter like this: Inhale-2-3-4, Exhale-2-3-4 and try to perform for 30-60 seconds.
Stress incontinence is bothersome, but with the right exercises, it can be improved. Don’t be embarrassed by stress incontinence and above all, see your doctor if you cannot find relief or feel your condition is severe.
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