We Tracked Our Kegels For 3 Days — & Here's What You Should Know

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If you took a comprehensive middle school health class, you might remember hearing about kegel exercises but may never have given them a try. Performed by repetitively flexing and relaxing the muscles that control urination, kegels are an effective way to maintain pelvic floor health, which can deteriorate due to age, surgeries, or childbirth. And though you can definitely do kegels without the assistance of one of the tools that claim to help women locate those hard-to-find muscles, we decided to practice them with the Elvie Kegel Trainer for three days. The verdict? We loved how the Elvie syncs with our phone, transforming the kegels into an interactive game while tracking our progress as we got stronger.
To be sure we understood the benefits and potential drawbacks of kegel tools like the Elvie, we spoke with Kimberly Sackheim, DO, a clinical assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation. Check out our full interview below to learn more about pelvic floor health and the best ways to improve it.
What are kegel exercises and what are their benefits?
"Kegels are exercises that contract and strengthen the pelvic floor, which supports the bladder, uterus, rectum, and intestines. They can also help to control any urinary incontinence, pelvic floor pain symptoms, as well as constipation, diarrhea, and rectal discomfort. Likewise, kegels can aid pelvic spasms and painful sex. They're recommended for patients who have organ prolapse or who've recently given birth (which can cause pelvic floor weakening)."
How would you define "pelvic floor health" and why is it important to maintain?
"A healthy pelvic floor doesn't have spasming, urinary leaking, or organ prolapse. It won't experience pain while resting or during intercourse, and its muscles respond appropriately during urination or holding urine. Childbirth, age, and surgeries can weaken pelvic floor muscles, so it's important to strengthen them since they affect the intestines, bladder, uterus, and rectum."
Is it more effective to use tools that supposedly help you do kegel exercises, rather than do them on your own?
"It is hard to isolate these muscles, so working with a specialist in pelvic floor therapy is optimal. Stopping your urine midstream helps to identify the pelvic floor muscles, but you shouldn't do this chronically, as it can lead to issues as well. It is best to do these exercises with an empty bladder once you are able to isolate the muscles appropriately.
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"Some devices can make it easier for women to isolate the pelvic floor muscles, though they can also make your muscles work in an unnatural way. You can always use a finger or vaginal cone if absolutely needed. I personally think it's best and most in line with our normal body mechanics not to use a device, if possible. On the other hand, biofeedback can make the exercise more efficient and effective in improving pelvic floor strength."
If you do use a tool, how soon can you expect results?
"Results vary per patient."
Are there any risks or dangers to doing kegel exercises?
"Do not regularly stop urine flow, since this can lead to issues. Once you figure out where the muscles are and how to activate them, try doing this with an empty bladder, but don't overdo it. Just like with any exercise, you can get sore muscles. Exercise caution if you experience any pain in the vaginal region, abdomen, or spine — these may be signs that you could be doing them incorrectly."
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