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Millions of women do pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, for better bladder control. They work for men, too.

For decades, doctors have considered Kegel exercises (synonymous with pelvic floor exercjses) that strengthen the muscles of the pelvis to be women's work. Usually first recommended during pregnancy and then prescribed for the rest of a woman's life, pelvic floor exercises make childbirth easier. They also help millions of women avoid stress incontinence, the dribbling of small amounts of urine or the passing of small bowel movements that can cause so much social distress.  And many women report that they improve their sex life.

But pelvic floor workouts aren't just for women any more.

Doctors have discovered that Kegel routines also help treat incontinence in men, as well as erectile dysfunction.

More and more physicians are recommending pelvic floor exercises to men.

The "Backboard" of Men's Sexual and Urinary Health

Urologist Dr. Andrew Siegel, lead author of a review article in the July 2014 edition of the medical journal Urology, told the New York Times "“People do cardio exercises for their heart, and they do strength training and work on their six-pack, but the pelvic floor is neglected. These muscles are the backboard of sexual and urinary health.”

The external anatomy of men and women is different, but both men and women have the same network of muscles in the pelvis. In both sexes, the pelvic floor muscles extend something like a hammock from the pubic bone, underlying the sex organs, to the tail bone. These muscles support the bladder, the bowel, the abdomen, and the back. In males, these muscles redirect blood flow to the penis during sexual arousal. They encircle the base of the penis, and they are tightened during erection and ejaculation.

Pelvic Muscles Can Get Out of Shape, Exercise Gets Them Back in Shape

Just like any other muscles, pelvic floor muscles in both men and women can weaken with age. To strengthen them, men are told told to stop and start the flow of urine when they pee. The same muscles are activated when men tighten up to avoid passing gas in an enclosed space. When these muscles are exercises, the man contracts them for a few seconds, releases, and contracts again. 

Kegel exercises should be done 10 to 20 times a day.

Dr. Siegel has even invented a system he calls a "Private Gym," complete with little weights that can be placed around the based of the penis for resistance training. In addition to weights on a silicone band that can be placed around the penis, Siegel's system includes an instructional DVD.

A Godsend for Men with Shy Bladders

It isn't just older men who can benefit from pelvic floor exercises. Many males of all ages suffer bashful bladder syndrome, an inability to urinate in situations with less than complete privacy. Some men and boys can suffer serious adjustment issues due to their inability to use public restrooms. Doing Kegel exercises gives them the ability to turn on as well as turn off the flow of urine, allowing them to urinate wherever they need to urinate even if they find the activity socially uncomfortable.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Rabin, RC. Pelvic Exercises for Men, Too. New York Times. 24 July 2014.
  • Siegel AL. Pelvic floor muscle training in males: practical applications.Urology. 2014 Jul. 84(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2014.03.016. Epub 2014 May 10. Review. PMID: 24821468.
  • Photo courtesy of The Pumpkin Theory by Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/celteverett/14005449315
  • Photo courtesy of Wilhei55 by Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/wilhei/405993690