The kGoal device syncs up to your phone with Bluetooth to help track your kegel exercises. (Photo: Amy Klein for Yahoo Health)
You should be doing them while waiting at traffic lights – walking or driving. You should be doing them while standing in line at the supermarket or doctor’s office. You can do them almost anywhere, without anyone knowing it. And they’re supposed to be one of healthiest things a woman can do for herself.
They’re kegels: pelvic floor exercises that strengthen core musculature for posture and pelvic organ support (including the bladder, uterus, and rectum). They help prevent incontinence or leakage, improve your core, and sometimes even your sex life. Some describe it as the feeling you get when you stop your urine midstream, others say it’s like holding in gas in public: You clench your pelvis and rectal muscles tight.
The problem is: Most women aren’t doing these exercises, says Liz Miracle, a women’s health clinical specialist in pelvic floor support and assistant clinical professor at the University of California School of Physical Therapy. “Women are busy, working, keeping up with their partners, juggling being mothers, and with all this going on they can’t find time for their pelvic floor exercises.”
And even when women remember to do them, they often do them wrong by using their abdominals or not using enough pressure, she says. (Kegels don’t use the abdominal muscles, and a good kegel should have a tight grip.)
kGoal, a system designed to make kegels more effective and enjoyable, is hoping to change all that, says Miracle, who’s a consultant for kGoal. It comes with a Smurf-colored, microphone-shaped device that tracks a woman’s kegel exercises — it measures if she’s squeezing the correct muscles, and aims to improve how tightly she grips — all through an app.
The device is inserted vaginally and, when paired with Bluetooth, detects the strength of a squeeze on an Android, iPad or iPhone. Retailing at $149, the app provides a goal (three, four, or five days a week) and guides you through five-minute workouts focusing on strength, endurance and control (all of which are scored).
It’s like a fitness tracker for your lady parts — but does it work?
Putting kGoal To The Test
I applied lubricant to the device, which looked like 3-inch-long deflated balloon. I had some difficulty inserting it, so my partner helped out. Once it was inserted, I pressed a button so it would blow up, ostensibly tailored to my own shape.
Then I pulled the kGoal app up on my phone and synced it to the device to begin one of the five-minute routines. I was instructed to match the intensity of my kegel squeeze to that of an “intensity line” on my phone screen as it went up and down. There were long squeezes and short bursts. It was so hard that the exercises actually made me feel out of breath!
The idea is to match the intensity of a kegel squeeze to the line on the kGoal app. (Photo: Amy Klein/kGoal)
But I didn’t see the point of some of the exercises, — like one where I had to increase my kegel strength to 100 to follow the line on my phone screen, before releasing back down to 0. If these exercises are supposed to be “fun,” how “fun” is it really to hold your phone in one hand and the device in place with in the other (so it doesn’t slide out), all while tightening and constricting your pelvic floor?
I’d never reached that strength of kegel before, holding it at 100 for ten seconds. It’s too soon to tell whether it would have any long-term effects (on my sex life), but I was willing to put in the three times a week for five minutes just to find out.
Why Every Woman Should Do Kegels (With Or Without An App)
Doctors agree that kegels are important for women, particularly in reducing incontinence or occasional leakage from coughing, sneezing, and running. “Essentially, kegels tighten the pelvic structure,” Adam C. Steinberg, DO, female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgeon at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, tells Yahoo Health. And doing them is just like any other sort of exercise, like running: “The more you do it, the better you’ll be.”
When a woman is doing a kegel, the brain signals the nerves in the pelvis, telling them to contract. As long as the nerves are intact, one can perform a kegel. In Steinberg’s practice, kegel ability can be tested either by the doctor inserting a digit while she contracts, or using biofeedback, which involves using an electrical device to send a signal to show the muscles how to do it.
Pelvic floor exercises can help most women, Steinberg says, noting that they help strengthen the core and can improve sex life. “I wouldn’t say it’s the cure-all for everything, but everyone should try doing them,” he says.