You’ve read a ton about workouts to boost your sex appeal and the actual science of sex, but how often do you think of buckling down and doing some Kegels? If you’re anything like us, the last time you probably even thought of the word was during Sex and the City reruns when Samantha heralded the pelvic-floor exercises as her sex-life savior.
But here’s the thing: Kegels—which are done by tightening your pelvic floor muscles, holding the contraction for a few seconds, relaxing, then repeating—are good to do now and crucial to keep your body in tip-top shape later on. We caught up with Dr. Donnica Moore, a prominent ob-gyn and women’s health care advocate, to get the skinny on five things you probably didn’t know about the unsung hero of bedroom aerobics.
Don’t expect to learn about Kegels from your doc.
“The good news? Women are confident talking about their vaginas. But the bad news is, they don’t know exactly what the vagina is,” Dr. Moore says. Even if you recently visited your ob-gyn (and you have, riiiiight?), it’s a sure bet you’re still not getting information on pelvic floor exercises from your doctor. “The average office visit is six minutes, and I have to do a full pelvic exam, breast exam, and other tests,” she says, meaning there’s no time to talk about the importance of Kegels. That means taking time to research for yourself, ladies!
Tone now; thank yourself later.
When you don’t go to the gym, your muscles get weaker. Your pelvic floor muscles—which are under your uterus, bladder, and large intestine—are no different. “Think of vaginal toning in the same way you’d work out,” Dr. Moore says. If you’re trying to strengthen your legs, for instance, you’d do plenty of reps, peppered with breaks. Treat your Kegels the same way to prevent future issues.
If you’re not working those muscles out in your 20s, you’re setting yourself up for problems in your 30s, 40s, and beyond—not only in the bedroom but in the bathroom too. Weak pelvic floor muscles not only mean less vaginal tone and weaker orgasms, they “can also lead to painful intercourse, incontinence, and fecal issues,” Dr. Moore says, adding that one in three women over 35 says she has urinary incontinence during daily activities like coughing, sneezing, or exercising. Yikes. All the more reason to get practicing now.
Most women don’t do it properly or long enough.
According to Dr. Moore, there isn’t a ton of clinically backed research on the benefits of sexercise (surprise, surprise), but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. “You should be doing them 10 to 20 times a day,” she says. The next time you’re using the bathroom, try stopping the flow of your urine midstream, and remember the sensation. You just used your pelvic floor! Empty your bladder, then try lying down. Tighten your Kegel muscles, and hold for 10 seconds. Release and relax for 10 seconds, then repeat; do your 10 to 20 reps a day, or do five times morning, noon, and evening.
You can take it low (or high) tech.
Flexing your muscles on your own is definitely the lo-fi way to get your Kegels in, but there are a growing number of gadgets and gizmos that do most of the legwork—er, bodywork—for you. Among them are vSculpt, an LED-emitting vibrator that’s slated to come out early next year, and Elvie, a device that links to your smartphone to give you biofeedback on your progress.
Guys notice (yes, really!).
Guys certainly notice when you’ve been spending extra hours at barre class, and they can tell when you’ve been keeping up with your Kegels too. But this isn’t just about the physical—the idea that you’ve been working to actively improve your sexual health can send a powerful psychological message.
“Most women don’t articulate why they’re turning down sex,” Dr. Moore says. So even if the women is saying no because of pain or embarrassment about incontinence, “all her partner sees is her pulling away and eating Häagen-Dazs on the couch,” Dr. Moore says. “This can really make or break the relationship.”