Why Kegel Exercises Are Good For Both Women And Men

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Kegel exercises have been around for a long time. First described by Dr. Arnold Kegel back in the 1940s, they were originally developed as a way to help women experiencing urinary control issues following childbirth. Since then, however, researchers and therapists have discovered that these exercises offer a range of sexual benefits to women and men alike.

What Kegel exercises are designed to do is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, a complex set of musculature that surrounds and supports the organs in the pelvis. Identifying them is relatively easy because these are basically the muscles you would use if you tried to stop the flow of urine midstream.

The recommended exercise routines are similar for both men and women and involve a mix of “long Kegels” (squeezing the muscles and holding them for a few seconds before releasing) and “short Kegels” (squeezing and releasing the muscles in rapid succession). For maximum effect, these exercises should be performed several times per day over a period of a few months.

For women, the documented benefits include improved sexual functioning, such as increased sexual desire, relief from pain during intercourse, as well as the ability to reach orgasm more easily [1]. Some research suggests that Kegel exercises are also a valuable treatment for sexual difficulties faced by post-menopausal women. For men, the documented benefits include improved erections and greater ejaculatory control. Believe it or not, Kegel exercises have actually been show to be a successful treatment for both erectile dysfunction [2] and premature ejaculation in some men [3]. Not only that, but it has been also suggested that Kegel exercises could potentially help men who want to become multiply orgasmic [4].

With all of that said, in order to increase the odds of obtaining the benefits of these exercises, you have to do a couple of things. For starters, make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly. In most of the research demonstrating benefits of Kegel exercises [1,2,3], these techniques were first carefully described to patients by a knowledgeable source and biofeedback devices were used in the initial training sessions. Biofeedback helps patients determine whether they’re contracting the right muscles and provides information on the strength of their contractions and how long each one is held. Learning these techniques from an experienced practitioner and using biofeedback is likely to yield better results; however, if there are financial cost and/or privacy concerns about this, at-home biofeedback kits do exist (in fact, there are now even some smartphone apps that offer biofeedback). I’m not aware of any research comparing results for these kits to those achieved through clinical biofeedback, though.

In addition, it’s important to stick to the program. Kegel exercises are really only linked to benefits to the extent that the exercises are performed regularly for an extended period of time. It's unlikely that you'll experience much--if any--benefit if you only do the exercises for a couple of days or on rare occasions.

Bottom line: Kegel exercises have the potential to treat a range of sexual difficulties in both men and women. However, the odds of experiencing sexual improvements fundamentally depend upon whether the exercises are performed correctly and regularly.

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[1] Beji, N. K., Yalcin, O., & Erkan, H. A. (2003). The effect of pelvic floor training on sexual function of treated patients. International Urogynecology Journal14(4), 234-238.

[2] Dorey, G., Speakman, M. J., Feneley, R. C., Swinkels, A., & Dunn, C. D. (2005). Pelvic floor exercises for erectile dysfunction. BJU International96(4), 595-597.

[3] LaPera, G., & Nicastro, A. (1996). A new treatment for premature ejaculation: The rehabilitation of the pelvic floor. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 22, 22-26.

[4] Hartman, W. E., & Fithian, M. (1984). Any man can. St. Martin's Press.

Image Source: 123RF/Daniil Lipin

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