4 Surprising Benefits of Kegel Exercises

Woman with her hands on her hips in jeans

Kegel exercises aren’t just for women — men can benefit from them, too. | iStock.com

If you had mentioned kegel exercises to your friends a few decades ago, you likely would have seen a lot of puzzled expressions. Back then, people were mostly concerned with achieving a toned midsection. This all changed thanks to Sex and the City. In one memorable episode, Samantha enlightens Charlotte by explaining performing daily kegel exercises can help a woman stay tight.

While it’s true kegels can help with vaginal looseness, that’s just one reason to consider doing them. In fact, men stand to gain just as much from strengthening their pelvic floor muscles.

First, we need a primer in kegel exercises. They’re named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, a gynecologist who first wrote about the subject as a way to help women recover from postnatal incontinence. Prevention explains targeting these muscles can be difficult, but women can usually do so by starting and stopping the stream of urine when going to the restroom or by imagining trying to squeeze a pebble with their vagina. For men, Mayo Clinic recommends the same method of interrupting the flow of urine or tightening muscles in a way similar to how you would when trying to avoid passing gas. Once you’re used to the sensation, try holding the squeeze for several seconds before releasing.

Now that we know how to perform kegel exercises, let’s get to the why. You might find yourself surprised by how strengthening the pelvic floor can improve your life.

1. Better bathroom control

kegel exercises can give you better bathroom control

Kegel exercises can help you have better bathroom control. | iStock.com

We already touched on incontinence a bit, but it’s worth mentioning again. And this goes for either type of bathroom trouble for both men and women, so kegel exercises should be your first resort if you’re struggling with either fecal or urinary difficulties. One review involving more than 6,000 women found kegel exercises to be beneficial for avoiding either type of bathroom issue when performed before or after childbirth.

Though men obviously don’t have to worry about control issues due to giving birth, some still experience problems. This is especially true for men who’ve undergone prostate surgery. Good news is kegels can help them as well. One 2006 study found men who practiced kegel exercises prior to surgery were able to get back to regular bathroom function significantly faster than those who didn’t train their pelvic muscles.

2. Kegel exercises can lesson erectile dysfunction issues

worried young man sits on the edge of a bed

Kegel exercises can help with erectile dysfunction. | iStock.com

Erectile dysfunction is shockingly common, especially when you consider how many younger men experience problems. For some reason, many of these guys never take any steps to address it. Medication isn’t the only option, though. One study published in BJU International found kegel exercises paired with positive lifestyle changes were extremely effective in treating erectile dysfunction. After six months, 40% of the subjects reported normal function and another 35.5% reported improved function.

Along the same lines, plenty of men find themselves struggling with premature ejaculation. One study found 12 weeks of training with kegel exercises improved duration of sexual activity in 33 out of 40 total subjects.

3. Better baby deliver

douple with a baby in their bedroom

Kegel exercises may make giving birth easier. | iStock.com

Doctors encourage pregnant women to stay active in the months leading up to delivery, and that should go for exercising pelvic muscles as well. One 2004 study involving about 300 women prescribed a program for training the pelvic muscles between weeks 20 and 36 of pregnancy to about half the participants. When it came time to give birth, the women who had been performing kegel exercises experienced an easier labor than those who didn’t try the program.

This is particularly interesting because we usually associate kegel exercises with tightness, which makes it seem like delivery would be more of a struggle. These results suggest the benefits are more about control than anything else.

4. Can treat anorgasmia

young couple not speaking after an argument

Kegel exercises can benefit your sexual health, too. | iStock.com

You may not be familiar with the term anorgasmia, so we’ll give a brief explanation. In short, it’s a condition where a person is unable to achieve climax after sexual stimulation. Though it’s often associated with women, men can also have trouble. In their case, it’s usually referred to as delayed ejaculation.

So what can kegels do? According to some research, including one study from 2010, kegel exercises can boost a woman’s orgasm. In this study, women with moderately strong pelvic floor muscles experienced higher arousal and orgasmic function than women with weaker muscles.

Though many have speculated the same is true for men, there’s really no research to back this up. That’s not to say these men don’t have options, though. Healthline explains there are many reasons why men experience this issue, so there are plenty of other treatments. In some cases, it may just be a matter of swapping one medication for another.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec