Benefits of Pelvic Floor Health

What is Your Pelvic Floor?

Your pelvic floor is the foundation of the trunk, sitting within the pubic bones which support the legs and affect the way we walk, as well as holding the body up.  Everything above the pelvic floor rests on it (especially your reproductive organs). The health and strength of your pelvic floor affects the shape of your bum, the flatness of your lower abs, the shape of your thighs and even the position of your knees and the arch of your feet as well as overall posture!


The pelvic floor is a set of muscles,and, like any muscle, you have to work on keeping it strong for life, especially since the rewards can be visible aesthetically and experienced intimately.  The difference between the pelvic floor and our other muscles is that debilitation affected by childbirth, age, surgery, weight, incorrect exercise choice, menopause and even asthma, can be embarrassing, isolating and soul destroying, leaving a sense of hopelessness for a better outcome.

It is so important that we become aware of what our pelvic floor does, where it is and how we can work it.  Sensory pathways from the brain control all muscles and the pelvic floor is no different, so we must learn to engage it.  Although we cannot see it, we can see and feel the signs of a strong or weak pelvic floor.

How strong is your Pelvic Floor?

- If you sneeze, laugh, jump, push or pull, and experience a leak, your pelvic floor is weak.  This can happen at any age, any body shape and regardless of your size or weight.  The key is to strengthen your pelvic floor, rather than mask the problem.

- If you have been pregnant, and particularly if you had a natural vaginal birth, the nerve endings in the vaginal canal and pelvic floor will need strengthening.  The benefits will be huge: you are more likely to avoid permanent diastasis recti (splitting of the abdominal wall), you’ll enjoy levels of pre-baby intimacy, your peace of mind will grow, and you’ll be able to do lots of different activities with confidence (and continence!)

- High-impact sports (including running), can put an excessive ‘load’ on your pelvic floor, so it’s important to have a strength and conditioning programme in place that will prevent you from experiencing incontinence during exercise. This is not something you should just put up with – it is a sign that your pelvic floor isn’t strong enough yet for the impact of your choice of exercise.

- If you have a chronic cough, or asthma.  The coughing will place a constant downward pressure on your pelvic floor which can give way to a prolapsed bladder.

- If you are overweight, this will impact your pelvic floor, adding excess pressure that can cause incontinence or prolapsed pelvic organs.

- If you often suppress the urge to go (this is common in people who drive for a living).  Don’t suppress the urge to go to the toilet – this can be detrimental to your pelvic floor and trains it to stay shut when it wants to relax. It can cause long-term damage.

Top Tips for learning to identify and engage your pelvic floor:

1) Learn diaphragmatic breathing in order to optimise the use of oxygen in your body.  Inhale through the nose, allowing the air to travel and cause the tummy to expand (just like a balloon), and relax as you exhale.  With a diaphragmatic breath there should no upward movement of either the shoulders or the chest.  There are many nerve endings in the pelvic floor, all of which need a healthy blood supply. Think of oxygen as nutrition for the body.

2) Find your position of strength, in which you can identify your pelvic floor and start here initially.  It could be standing, sitting, on all fours or lying on your back.  Breathe deeply in this position and recognise what you feel within the pelvic floor.  Feel the sensations and movements descending as you breathe in and elevating as you breathe out.  Master this position first before moving to the next.

3) From here, you can learn to strengthen your pelvic floor in all four positions, to help you as you do exercise and everyday activities.

4) If you are having trouble identifying your pelvic floor, try this: put your thumb into the roof of your mouth and suck very hard. You’ll feel your pelvic floor elevate. This is the sensation you want to be able to control yourself – brain to pelvic floor.

5) Recognise that the pelvic floor works on the same neurological loop as your lower abdominals.  Most women are strong in the upper abdominals.  If you want to flatten and strengthen your lower abs, engage from your pelvic floor upwards (rather than from your belly button downwards).  This stops you from over-recruiting your obliques and upper abdominals.

6) Keep going! The sensation will come, and once you get the hang of it you can carry on strengthening your pelvic floor for life and enjoy all of its rewards.

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