Ever pee when you sneeze? You’re not alone. You probably have weak pelvic floor muscles, which are caused by pregnancy, childbirth, aging and being overweight. The solution is to perform Kegel exercises, which help strengthen those muscles. But not everyone digs doing Kegel exercises. They can feel weird, and even though you’ve been told 100 times to clench the same muscle you squeeze when stopping the flow of urine, it’s hard not to wonder if you’re actually doing them correctly.
The good news? There are other exercises that can help tighten your pelvic floor muscles. “Pilates and other core exercises do help the pelvic floor,” notes Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., author of “The Yale Guide to Women’s Reproductive Health: From Menarche to Menopause.“ “I still encourage Kegels, too, but these other exercises are excellent and helpful.”
Want to head off those embarrassing accidents? Try these exercises recommended and performed by Pilates and fitness instructor Cassey Ho.
Lie face down and then lift your body to form a push-up position, resting on your hands and your toes. Your arms should be straight and your shoulders directly over your wrists. Your neck, hips and legs should all be in line—don’t let your hips sag towards the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles. Hold plank pose anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute.
Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart and your arms straight and resting on the floor by your side. Raise your hips off the floor, keeping your shoulders broad and on the ground to form bridge pose. Then, make circles with your hips to form the number 8. Lower yourself by slowing rolling the spine down to the floor. Repeat. Do two to three sets of eight repetitions.
Lie on your back with your legs straight and together and your hands tucked under your rear. Raise your legs two feet off the floor, pause, and then lift your legs until they form a right angle with your hips. Hold, and then slowly lower your legs to the floor. Repeat. Do two to three sets of 10 repetitions.
Get on hands and knees. Keep your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees right under your hips. Extend your right arm and left leg straight out simultaneously. Bring both limbs back to starting position. Then extend your left arm and your right leg straight out. Continue alternating arms and legs while keeping your abdominal muscles tight and trying not to move your torso. Do two sets of 10 to 12 reps on each side.
Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Bend your knees and squat down as if you were sitting in a chair, until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and your torso as straight as possible without putting stress on your back. Make sure your knees don’t shoot past your toes. Stand up to return to starting position. Repeat. Do two to three sets of 12 reps.