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How Kegels Can Help with Erectile Dysfunction


written by Carrie Borzillo - May 24, 2021
medically reviewed by Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Jun 9, 2021

Photo Credit: by Dainis Graveris, Unsplash.com
Photo Credit: by Dainis Graveris, Unsplash.com

If you had to read this headline twice, you’re likely not alone. Most don’t expect to see the words “Kegels” and “erectile dysfunction” together because, well, aren’t Kegels just for women? That’s what we thought too.

But, in fact, those squeeze-relax-repeat exercises known to help women strengthen their pelvic floor muscles to improve sex and decrease urinary incontinence are actually not just for women. Men can do them too to help with erectile dysfunction, prostate health, and bladder control.

According to a U.K. research study from the University of the West, 40 percent of men with erectile dysfunction who participated in the study regained normal erectile function after six months of doing Kegel exercises. The study also found that an additional 33.5 percent of the men saw significantly improved erectile function.

This study concluded that these pelvic floor exercises should be considered as a first‐line approach for men seeking long‐term resolution of their erectile dysfunction. That said, if you are suffering from erectile dysfunction, consult your doctor first to review possible causes and all treatment options, which can include taking oral medications such as Viagra or Cialis, injections such as Alprostadil, testosterone replacement, or in some cases the use of implants, surgery, or penis pumps.

What Are Kegels & Where Are They?

The Kegel muscles, in a woman, are the muscles that support the uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. For men, it’s the muscles that support the bladder, sphincter, and pelvic floor. Kegels are named after American gynecologist Dr. Arnold Kegel who developed the exercises in the 1950s.

By definition, Kegels are, “repetitive contractions of the pelvic muscles that control the flow in urination in order to strengthen these muscles specially to control or prevent incontinence or to enhance sexual responsiveness during intercourse.”

Just as exercising other muscles in your body leads to increase in blood flow and oxygen supply to the muscle being utilized, the same mechanism of increased blood flow is how it is believed that Kegel’s exercises help with erectile dysfunction. This mechanism of vasodilation and increased blood flow is actually also the main mechanism in how medications such as Viagra and Tadalafil help with erectile dysfunction.

In order to “workout” any other muscle group in your body, you need to be able to identify it in order to engage it. That’s an easy task if you’re focusing on biceps or quads, but it’s not that easy to find your own pelvic floor. For men, the easiest way to find them is to insert a finger into the rectum and try to squeeze it without tightening the abdominal, buttocks, or thigh muscles. Healthline describes it best as trying to “tense the muscles that keep you from passing gas.”

The Benefits of Kegel Exercises

Most know that Kegels for women are a great way to help with light incontinence (you know, when you pee a little when you dance, jump, or laugh hard), especially after childbirth. One myth is that Kegels make a woman's vagina tighter, but that’s not actually what’s happening.

“[Kegels] can make it more responsive down there, not because you've made those muscles stronger, but because you've developed more awareness of them. So, your pelvic floor is not typically in your consciousness. When you learn how to tighten those muscles, during sex you might feel it more. Those are the muscles that contract when you have an orgasm, so it is possible that if those muscles are stronger and more robust, then you might have a stronger orgasm," gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter told CanadaPharmacyOnline in a related article, “5 Kegel Devices to Improve Your Sex Life.”

For men, Kegel exercises are also good for restoring bladder control, especially after prostate surgery. And, for some men, it helps with erectile dysfunction and prevents premature ejaculation. “Doing Kegels can improve your erection strength, orgasm quality, and ejaculation,” says Dr. Myles Spar, an integrative men’s health expert and the National Medical Director of the men’s telehealth startup Vault Health.

Specifically, Kegels can help strengthen the bulbocavernosus muscle, which is a muscle of the perineum on men between the anus and the genitals. “This important muscle does three jobs: It allows the penis to engorge with blood during erection, it pumps during ejaculation, and it helps empty the urethra after urination,” writes Healthline.

This Is How You Do It

You can do Kegels anywhere — at your desk while you work, as you’re on a walk, doing dishes, or watching a movie. It doesn’t take any outward effort, and no one can see what you’re doing. It’s a similar motion to what you do when you hold back on urinating or defecating. Dr. Spar suggests to get started, begin with stopping the flow of urine when you’re peeing, then the next time you’re sitting around, practice that same move.

Here are the UCLA Health Urology department’s instructions and tips for men on how to do Kegel exercises…

Photo Credit: Pelvic floor muscles, courtesy of UCLA Health Urology
Photo Credit: Pelvic floor muscles, courtesy of UCLA Health Urology

Before getting started, keep these tips in mind before you perform these exercises:

● Do not hold your breath.

● Do not push down. Squeeze your muscles together tightly and imagine that you are trying to lift this muscle up.

● Do not tighten the muscles in your stomach, buttocks, or thighs.

Method 1:

1. Tighten and hold your pelvic floor muscles for five seconds (count like this: one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand, five one thousand).

2. Relax your pelvic muscles. You have just done one Kegel exercise. You should plan to do 10 to 20 Kegel exercises three to four times each day.

Method 2:

1. Squeeze the muscles in your anus (like you are holding a bowel movement).

2. Relax your pelvic floor muscles after each attempt.

3. Repeat this exercise 10 to 20 times.

Don’t worry: Newbies to this practice aren’t usually able to do 10-20 on their first attempt. Don’t give up, just do what you can to eventually work up to that many repetitions and do them three times a day.

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