If you’re like most men, you probably haven’t given much thought to your pelvic floor muscles. But just like every other part of your body, your pelvic floor muscles need regular exercise to remain strong.
If you suddenly find yourself experiencing erectile dysfunction or a frequent urge to urinate, it may be time for you to visit a doctor to determine whether your pelvic floor muscles are in good shape.
So what are the pelvic floor muscles? They’re basically an elaborate network of muscles that surround the base of your penis, creating a foundation for your bowel, bladder and sexual health.
While pelvic muscles tend to weaken with age, other factors, such as a recent surgery or injury, can also affect them.
Possible below-the-belt symptoms include erectile dysfunction, involuntary urine or bowel leakage (also called bladder or bowel incontinence), or pain during sex or following ejaculation.
If you’ve been diagnosed with weak pelvic floor muscles, there are luckily a few ways to resolve the issue.
Dr Sandra Hilton, a doctor of physical therapy at Entropy Physiotherapy and Wellness in Chicago, Illinois, has been working in the area of men’s health and sexual dysfunction since 1986.
She says pelvic floor muscles have a remarkable ability to regain strength, coordination, flexibility and stamina. “Fluid, flexible and strong muscles make squatting, sitting, walking and sex more enjoyable,” she says.
The first thing you should do? Try Kegel exercises, which tighten the muscles of the pelvic floor. While Kegels are perhaps most often associated with women (particularly those who have just given birth), they can also be tremendously beneficial to men to improve bladder and bowel control and sexual performance.
There’s also some evidence to indicate that they can help men with erectile dysfunction.
Read more: The 7 sexual benefits of exercise
Although Kegels are fairly simple to do, many people do them incorrectly, Dr Hilton says.
“The mistakes about Kegels are usually from poor form – you might be using a lot of abdominals, holding your breath, and squeezing your gluteals or adductors (inner thighs) instead of the pelvic muscles,” she says.
To isolate the muscles of the pelvic floor, Dr Hilton suggests standing naked in front of a mirror. Without using your hands, try to lift your testicles by engaging the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Visualise “lifting your nuts to your guts” or “shortening your penis”. When you do this, you should observe a lift of your penis or testicles. Another way to locate the pelvic floor is to clench your sphincter muscles and pretend you’re trying not to pass gas. This tightening motion lifts the posterior aspect of the pelvic muscles.
When doing Kegels, Dr Hilton says, try not to hold your breath or contract additional muscles. Hold the contraction for the count of five. Then relax the muscles for five seconds as well.
Complete 10-20 repetitions three to four times a day (or as directed by your healthcare provider).
Read more: Kegel exercises are not just for women
While Kegels are an effective way to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, functional fitness can do the trick as well.
“Doing squats, jumping, running, and having an orgasm are all possible ways to get fitness into the pelvic muscles,” says Dr Hilton. “Keeping our muscles strong and flexible is good for health. The whole body needs it, including the pelvic floor!”
This article was originally published on www.menshealth.com
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