The 6 Benefits of Using Resistance Bands

The health industry seems to make getting healthy a challenge. Gyms encourage people to lift heavy weights. Medical professionals recommend moderate exercise. Nutritionists say walking is good enough. What is a person to do when all the health advice seems both complimentary and contradictory? Many people shut down, feeling overwhelmed and disillusioned.

The truth is, you do not need a bunch of fancy equipment or heavy weights to build muscle. With resistance bands, you can achieve moderate aerobic activity, the guidelines of most health officials. If you aren't sure resistance bands are right for you, consider their six proven benefits.

1. Easier On Your Joints

Running, walking, climbing, and jumping are all hard on the joints. While that is likely not something that concerned you in your youth, it is certainly a necessary consideration once you hit a certain age. Arthritis and other bone disorders can make even walking unbearable.

Using resistance bands, you protect the joint. There is no hard compression or impact as you move through exercises. You can build the muscle around the joint without risking further injury or discomfort.

2. Targets Stabilizing Muscles

As people age, balance becomes an issue. Resistance bands target stabilizing muscles, helping you build strength in the areas of your body responsible for balance. While you might feel a little awkward at first, after several weeks and months of using the bands, you will become more confident with every step you take.

3. Less Restrictive Than Machines

When you work out on a weight machine at a gym, you are restricted to specific movements. While the restriction is beneficial to beginners learning the appropriate movements of an exercise, it can also lead to injury in people with restricted mobility. Additionally, machines are built to a standard, meaning that not everyone will fit the routine correctly.

Resistance bands allow for freedom of movement, but they also encourage correct form. When using a resistance band, you will know when something is working and when it isn't.

4. Designed for Compound Exercises

Working one muscle group in the body at a time is a typical way of training, but it is not the most efficient. Compound exercises engage several muscles simultaneously, improving coordination and using more energy for a more beneficial workout.

Resistance bands are designed for compound exercises. In fact, it is nearly impossible to perform a single exercise with these bands and not engage multiple muscle groups.

5. Promote Better Form

Resistance bands are excellent for promoting better form and building overall body strength. To exercise correctly using bands, you need to maintain tension throughout the exercise, meaning you can not use momentum to push out a few more reps. Every movement with a resistance band is specific, focused, and true.

6. Leave You in Control

When using weight machines or straight bars, your positioning is limited. Sometimes, an exercise will require an awkward position of your hand or wrist which can aggravate an old injury or sawn a new one. Resistance bands allow you to maintain control of your position at all times, creating less opportunity or risk for injury.

While the health industry can sometimes offer conflicting or confusing messages, some things remain true: nutrition and moderate aerobic exercise are healthy. Resistance bands provide a beneficial workout with limited risks for injury. Have you ever used resistance bands? Leave a comment below.

The Benefits of Cardio for Seniors and 6 Examples

Cardio is a vital component of your exercise routine. By definition, cardio workouts promote cardiovascular health, strengthening the heart muscle and improving function. When making cardio a regular part of your exercise regimen, you can expect to see improvements to your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity, lung capacity, and so much more. However, since you don’t want to put too much strain on the old ticker, consider focusing on low-impact exercises to start.

Cardio Exercises for Seniors

No matter your current fitness level, there are cardio options for your workout. While those dealing with weight issues might not be ready to run, taking a few steps every day can still help. There are at least six cardio exercises that seniors can do, regardless of their current fitness level.

1. Cycling

Do you have a bicycle? If not, you might want to think about getting one. Cycling is one of the best low-impact cardio exercises. The beauty, even if you do not trust your balance, you can find adult trikes, taking balance out of the equation, allowing you to enjoy the ride.

2. Walking

Many people believe that walking is not an effective form of exercise, especially when compared to running, but that is not true. Walking carries many of the same benefits as running. However, to achieve the same calorie loss, you will need to walk at least twice as long.

3. Running

Running offers a greater opportunity to lose weight than walking, but it is also harder on your joints and bones. You should only attempt running if you are in good physical condition and are used to the exercise's rigors and techniques.

4. Dancing

If you want to boost your energy levels and get rid of some extra stress you’ve been carrying, consider dancing. The activity is not only good for the heart and cardiovascular health; it can also improve balance, strength, and mobility while reducing muscle pain and joint stiffness.

5. Stair Climbing

Similar to dancing, stair climbing can be a beneficial exercise for seniors. Routine climbing can encourage flexibility and balance while building muscle in the legs. However, not every senior should attempt stair climbing, especially if you do not have confidence in your abilities. If you experience falls due to mobility or a lack of muscles, a staircase is a potentially dangerous addition to your exercise regimen.

6. Water Aerobics

Water-based exercises, such as water aerobics, offer similar benefits to other activities on this list: improved mobility, balance, and coordination. Additionally, through the resistance training achieved through hydrostatic pressure, seniors can build muscle in a safe and controlled environment. As with other forms of cardio, water aerobics also reduces the risks of heart disease.

Weight-Bearing Cardio

While water exercises, like swimming, and cycling do provide cardiac benefits, seniors should also balance these low-impact activities with weight-bearing cardio exercises. These exercises will include walking, dancing, sports, etc. When choosing weight-bearing cardio options, you can strengthen your heart and bones.

Do you already have a cardio routine, and does it include anything on this list? If not, leave a comment describing your regimen and explaining why you chose the exercises you did.

Kegels May Have Some Unintended Side Effects

When you get to be a woman of a “certain age,” you may start to notice that things don’t seem to work quite right downstairs. You might notice that you need to run to the bathroom more often because your bladder isn’t quite as effective at holding things in anymore. Or you might discover that your “wind” just sneaks out no matter how hard you try to hold it in. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in these things! Many women, including myself, experience these issues as we age. And most of us have probably heard that Kegels are the solution to our

Kegel exercises involve the repeated contracting and relaxing of the pelvic floor muscles. Doctors sometimes recommend Kegel exercises for women who want to improve their sexual function as well as their bladder and bowel function. The pelvic floor muscles support the rectum, uterus, small intestine and bladder. Just as with any other muscle in your body, your pelvic floor muscles need to be exercised regularly in order to maintain their tone and strength. That’s where Kegel exercises come in. But before you start a daily Kegel regimen, you should know that the pelvic floor exercises may have some unintended side effects as well.

Intimacy Consequences

One of the reasons ladies do Kegel exercises is to help improve the quality of our intimate moments, right? But what if I told you that overdoing your Kegel exercises can actually cause sexual intercourse to be more painful? I know, I know, it sounds counterintuitive. But the reason excessive Kegels can make intercourse painful is because they can cause your vaginal muscles to get too tight. So if you want to find the right balance, try doing just 10 Kegel exercises at a time, two to three times per day.

Bladder Pain and Leaking

Wait, aren’t Kegel exercises supposed to prevent bladder leaking? I can almost hear you asking me that. And yes, when they aren’t done excessively, Kegels can help you hold your urine in where it belongs. However, too many Kegels can cause your pelvic floor muscles to become too short. When this happens, it can lead to consistent bladder pain and may cause you to leak urine. You may also have difficulty letting all of your urine out when it’s actually time to go.

Constipation

Too many Kegel sessions can lead to soreness in the tailbone and lower back areas. It can also lead to constipation because the muscles lining your pelvic floor are just too tight and short to function properly.

Charlie Horses

OK, ladies. Think about the last time you had a Charlie horse in your foot, thigh or anywhere else. Now imagine experiencing that kind of pain in your lady bits. Are you done cringing yet? You should know that excessively tightening the pelvic floor muscles can lead to Charlie horses in places where Charlie horses should never occur.

How You Can Avoid These Unpleasant Side Effects

Now that I’ve probably scared you out of ever wanting to do another Kegel exercise in your lifetime, I want you to know that’s not my intention. While too many Kegels can lead to any of these unpleasant side effects, it is quite possible to do Kegels safely. The key is to go easy on those muscles and don’t try to do 200 or more contractions in a single setting. Instead, do a few contractions here or there throughout your day.

Think of strengthening your pelvic floors as you would strengthen any other area of your body. Do it in small sets, with rest days off. If you perform your pelvic floor exercises wisely and with moderation, you’ll be able to develop a functional, strong pelvic floor without the pain or discomfort that comes with any type of muscle overuse.

Three Strategies for a Better Bladder

Do you feel like you always have to "go"? Bladder problems put a serious damper on the fun for many women after 60. If you're bugged by a constant urge to hit the ladies' room, experience embarrassing leakage or lose sleep at night because of your bladder, try these strategies to support the healthy function of this important organ.

Change Consumption

First of all, drink lots of water. While that may seem counterintuitive, fluid flushes the bladder of infection and toxins. Try to get six-to-eight 8-oz glasses each day, but ask your doctor about water intake if you have heart or kidney disease.

Cut back on soda, coffee and other caffeinated beverages, which irritate the bladder and can increase the frequency and urges. Some women also find that limiting chocolate, carbonated beverages, citrus fruits, tomatoes, spicy foods or alcohol decreases uncomfortable bladder symptoms.

Eating fiber-rich foods prevents constipation, which can negatively impact bladder health. Add fresh fruits and veggies as well as whole grains to the menu so you stay regular.

You might also want to try timing your fluid intake. Avoid going over 64 oz of water a day and try to break it up into smaller amounts. Front-load your fluid intake in the morning and limit beverages before bed if you often wake up to urinate.

Medications can also affect the health of your bladder. You may notice urinary symptoms if you take antidepressants, antihistamines, sedatives, muscle relaxants, diuretics, heart medications, or drugs for high blood pressure. Consult with your doctor; he or she may be able to provide another option.

If you are overweight or obese, changing your diet and exercising to lose extra pounds often resolves bladder symptoms. Smoking can also damage the health of your bladder, so look into cessation programs if you use tobacco.

Time Your Trips

When you have an overactive bladder, your brain signals you to empty it even when it's not necessary. Fortunately, toilet training isn't just for tots! You can train your bladder so you feel the urge less frequently. Try these steps.

  • Write down each trip to the bathroom to go number two for several days. Look for patterns in when and how often you urinate.

  • Look at your notes and figure out how long you can usually go before you have to go. Extend that interval by 15 minutes. For example, if you usually head to the loo every 90 minutes or so, try to make it to the 105-minute mark. When you succeed, extend the time by 15 more minutes the following day.

  • Eventually, you should be able to wait two to four hours between bathroom trips. Try to wait when you feel the urge but you're not scheduled to urinate.

The more you practice this simple technique, the easier it will be to control your bladder and spend less time in the bathroom.

Maximize Muscle Strength

Strengthening the muscles that make up your pelvic floor can boost your bladder health and control urinary symptoms. Have you done your Kegels? To perform this exercise, squeeze your pelvic floor as if you were trying to stop your urine stream. Hold for three seconds, then relax for three seconds several times in a row, several times a day. If you aren't sure you're doing this move correctly, talk to your doctor.

In addition to exercising the pelvic floor, getting regular physical activity improves the health of your organs including the bladder. It also limits constipation and reduces extra weight, both factors that contribute to bladder problems.

Too many women write off urinary symptoms as a normal part of aging. These tips may improve your bladder health and help you reduce your lavatory visits.

How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

It seems like every year I make the same three new year’s resolutions. I want to eat better, move more and spend less time looking at screens. It also seems that every year I swiftly abandon all three of these noble goals by Valentine’s Day.

Whoops.

Last year, everything changed. Last year, I took a different approach to the promises I made to myself, and it paid off. I really did start moving more! I got in gear by tapping into four surprisingly simple strategies.

Don’t Overdo It

The temptation to shoot for the moon when it comes to new year’s resolutions is real. It’s also a really easy way to sabotage yourself before you even begin, and here’s why: When you set a lofty goal, it’s easy to be discouraged by your progress, no matter how great it is in actuality, because it seems small.

For example, if you want to lose 50 pounds by next New Year’s Day, seeing just a pound or two trickle off the scale each week can be underwhelming. It can feel like you’re never going to reach your goal.

The thing is, losing a pound or two each week is outstanding. It’s the ideal way to lose weight, in fact! What needs to change isn’t the approach, it’s the goal and its framing. Instead of resolving to lose 50 pounds by next January, which feels like it’s 100 years away, resolve to lose a pound a week. Accomplish that little goal consistently, and you’ll hit your goal weight before you know it.

Lasting changes happen slowly, so instead of focusing on some grand result far off in the future, focus on the here and now. Speaking of which…

Don’t Fixate on Goals

Goals can be great. For many of the most common resolutions, however — such as the desire to lose weight, be active or save more money — setting a goal isn’t the best route. A better means of making real change is to focus not on the goal but on the practice. In other words, don’t resolve to run a 5K this summer; resolve to become a runner. If you focus on the process instead of some semi-arbitrary end result, you’re far more likely to build good habits that last.

Don’t Go It Alone

Accountability can do wonders for a resolution. If you want to stick with your commitment, rope some friends, family members and even strangers into your plan.

Trying to lose weight? Tell the people in your household so they can motivate you and refrain from bringing home so many cookies. Want to work out more? Join a class at your local gym. Ready to quit smoking? Tell your friends. Odds are, they'll be excited and supportive.

Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

You’re going to screw up sometimes. That’s a fact. It’s human nature to skip a workout, dive into that extra piece of pizza or spend a little extra on your granddaughter’s Sweet 16. Here's the important part, though: It matters less why you momentarily broke your resolution than it does how you bounce back from it.

Like so many women, I’ve been fighting the battle of the bulge my entire life. When I cave and have a piece of cake I didn’t budget for, I don’t let it derail my entire plan. I think of my plan — and my practice of being a person who eats fresh, nutritious food — like a circle. I stepped out of the circle momentarily, found it covered in delicious sprinkles, thoroughly enjoyed it, and now it’s time to gingerly step back in the circle.

You know the old saying: Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you want to see your new year’s resolutions through, commit to making small changes, and when you go astray, don’t give up. Dust off the sprinkles, and jump back in the circle instead.

Finding the Time To Workout

Finding the time to workout and remain physically active can be a struggle. The modern pressures and 24-hour grabs for people’s attention seem to undermine every health mantra, leaving many unaware of or unable to secure the benefits of routine exercise.

Most people understand that exercise is good for them, that it ensures coordination, mobility, and sustained strength during the aging process. The challenge is demonstrating how exercise is essential, especially when people already struggle to prioritize family, work, and friendship into the all-too-short 24-hour day.

Thankfully, an exercise routine can fit into your current schedule. There are at least five ways to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle without interfering too much with your existing plans.

1. Exercise During Your Commute or Errands

Many people do not consider how much time they spend commuting from one place to another, using trains, subways, cars, etc. Instead of spending that time sedentary, consider using it to exercise. For instance, many people bike to work, which is an excellent way to get aerobic exercise while practicing balance and endurance. Depending on your physical capabilities, you can choose to walk, run, or bike to the grocery store or perform other errands. While it might seem extreme, converting your commute into an opportunity for exercise is one of the best and most effective uses of your time. However, you will need to consider where you can shower once you arrive at work.

2. Embrace a Schedule

Most people schedule everything nowadays. Why should exercise be any different? Think of your physical activity as a crucial meeting or another unavoidable requirement and pencil it into your calendar.

People often overestimate how much time they need to exercise on any given day. 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity is the requirement for most adults, meaning that the government recommends about two and a half hours of exercise every week.

3. Get Up Early

There is a solution if you cannot find the time during your existing schedule to exercise: get up earlier. Instead of waking up at seven, set your alarm a half-hour earlier. By waking up slightly earlier, you can guarantee you have enough time in your day to exercise, achieving the recommended 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Join a Gym

Some people need a little encouragement or incentive to workout. If you are one of those people, consider joining a local gym. Many people will go to the gym when they are paying for it, but remember to find a convenient and close place. If you select a gym that is out of the way, it becomes an excuse to avoid it.

5. Change Your Mindset

Most people need to change their mindset about exercise. Too many individuals see exercise as an obligation and not something enjoyable. Healthy activity can be challenging, but the key is to look beyond the activity. What does exercise enable you to do? How will it benefit you now and in the future? The key is to find the joy and motivation in the practice and routine, to change your mindset, and embrace a healthy lifestyle.

In the end, finding time to exercise is about dedication and searching for small opportunities. Do you have a routine that helps you stay healthy? Leave a comment below.

The Importance of Staying Active and How To Start an Exercise Routine

While many people love to say that age is just a number, aging does involve muscular decline, especially when seniors ignore the many benefits of routine exercise. A sedentary life is not beneficial to an aging body; muscle deteriorates, bones and joints lose flexibility and mobility, and balance is nearly nonexistent. To prevent the dangers and postpone the natural decline of aging, people must stay active.

Now, an active lifestyle does not mean that you need to go out and join a track team or play sports unless that is something that interests you. Staying active is about using the muscles and body you have to ensure continued mobility and strength. Despite the initial exhaustion, routine exercise can lead to increased energy, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you start.

Always Talk With Your Doctor

There is an eagerness that often accompanies life changes and choices. While you might be excited to begin an exercise routine, you mustn't challenge yourself too much initially. Depending on your current lifestyle and activity level, an exercise routine could lead to complications.

Before you begin a new exercise regimen, contact your primary care physician. Let them know what you want to do, and ask them if they think it is a good idea. Most likely, any doctor will encourage you to adopt healthier habits, but they might be cautious of a full-on exercise routine for sedentary and overweight people.

Instead of encouraging you to ramp up your exercise, a doctor might encourage you to start slow, introducing one new activity at a time until your body gets used to it.

2 Hours and 30 Minutes Is an Excellent Goal

A healthy and aging adult should aim for two hours and thirty minutes of exercise per week, which averages out to about 20 to 30 minutes of activity per day. The goal is to complete that time using moderate-intensity-aerobic-activity. For instance, a brisk walk, dancing, raking leaves, or swimming are excellent examples of this activity.

Again, you want to focus on your existing ability. While you might want to do thirty consecutive minutes of moderate-activity, you might need to break that into three 10 minute sessions. Also, moderate exercise is not the same for everyone. Some people might be able to walk for a mile briskly, but others can only handle a few blocks. Knowing your limitations is crucial to ensuring you exercise without injury or burnout.

Exercise Schedule

An aging person has different obligations than a youngster. While someone young might only focus on strength training, an older person might need to focus more heavily on balance, coordination, and flexibility. There is no right or wrong way to create an exercise routine, as long as it focuses on health and safety. However, the typical suggestion for older people is two days of muscle strengthening and three days of balance and coordination.

Strength training does not have to be free weights, which could be dangerous for older people; instead, some experts suggest tension bands, dumbells, or machines. The other days of balance and coordination can utilize practices like yoga.

While age is technically only a number if you want to stay active and independent as you get older, consider a stable and habitual exercise routine. What do you do to stay healthy? Leave a comment below.

Breathing Right: Using the Valsalva Maneuver To Improve Your Workout Routine and Protect Your Spine

When people are first learning to workout, the focus is more on form and technique. Few gyms or fitness centers discuss breathing because it is a natural skill. However, while people do know how to breathe in a typical setting, the inhale and exhale are not the same while working out.

If you are not taking a breath at the right time and in the correct way, you can injure yourself. Breathing comes naturally, but when you learn how to breathe with the Valsalva maneuver correctly, you can see an immediate improvement in your endurance and ability.

How You Breathe Matters

Consider the squat. Most people tell you to exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down, but if you adhere to this advice, you can injure your back, especially when doing weighted squats. In truth, inhaling before you go down and holding your breath protects the spine and ensures you have enough follow-through to push up. You begin the exhale during the most challenging part of the lift through pursed lips.

Inhaling deeply and holding creates intra-abdominal pressure, engaging several parts of the abdominal cavity, from the diaphragm to the pelvic floor. The pressure provides support and stability to your spine as you move through the exercise. You should reset this intra-abdominal pressure before every rep.

The Valsalva Maneuver

While breathing is the crucial part of the Valsalva maneuver, it is not the only part. The maneuver also requires engaging your obliques, abs, and back muscles, keeping them stiff during the rep. Going back to the squat as an example, when standing, breath in deep, filling your abdomen. Engage your core and back muscles, keeping them tight and stiff. Squat down into position, and return to your standing position. Exhale completely. Repeat the process for however many reps you are doing.

Perfecting Your Breathing

Before using the Valsalva maneuver, you need to perfect your breathing. Vertical breathing is common, and it involves the movement of the chest and engagement of the shoulders and neck. Using this breathing technique is not productive and leads to a swath of potential injuries.

Diaphragmatic breathing engages the abdominal region. Breathing in this way ensures that you create the pressure pocket of protection during a workout. To improve your breathing skills, lay on the floor, and take a deep breath in. Your stomach should expand in all directions, but your chest and neck should experience limited movement. Laying on the floor makes it easier to engage the correct muscles, allowing you to experience the way Valsalva feels.

Taking Necessary Precautions

While the Valsalva maneuver is preferred among weight lifters, it is necessary to state that it is not appropriate for everyone. Using this technique will temporarily increase your blood pressure. For people with existing blood pressure problems, it can be better to avoid the risk, or at the very least, schedule an appointment with your physician.

What do you think about the Valsalva maneuver? Will you use it? Leave a comment below with any questions or observations you might have, and as always, continue reading the Smarter Science of Slim for more exercise and nutrition information to help you live your healthiest life.

The Worst Sleep Position For Your Health

Most people know that the average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, but fewer people know the best way to sleep. What do you understand about sleep positions, and do you know yours? Many people don’t give too much thought to how they sleep, merely rolling around until they find a comfortable angle.

Did you know, though, that research does suggest that there is an optimal and suboptimal way to position your body for sleep? While some professionals disagree on the best position, mainly favoring either side or back sleepers, most researchers agree on the worst: The stomach.

How Did the Stomach Get a Bad Reputation?

For those who sleep on their stomachs, the low placement on the best position list might be upsetting. Many may scream foul, decrying the back as a terrible way to sleep. The back, while favored by chiropractors, does have its drawbacks. People with snoring problems or sleep apnea should not sleep on their back because it can worsen their existing issues. Professionals also do not recommend the back for people with acid reflux or sinus or allergy problems. However, despite these issues, the back does fair better than the stomach for most people.

Stomach sleepers risk injury every night they go to sleep. The neck and spine are not in a good resting position, and there is increased pressure on the joints. Plus, when sleeping on your stomach, how do you lay your head? Most people turn it to one side or the other, which only increases misalignment. Additionally, sleeping on the stomach does not bode well for people with sinus and allergy problems because congestion can worsen, making mouth breathing the only option, but depending on where your head is, your mouth is either blocked by the mattress or your windpipe is restricted from the angle of your neck.

How Should You Sleep?

Side sleeping is often the preferred sleeping position among experts. It allows the individual to limit strain on the body while maintaining a neutral position. Therefore, you will often wake up feeling more rested and relaxed. However, the benefits of this position do not mean that it is free of any problems.

The diagonal from the hips to the knees can cause some discomfort, and the body may roll while sleeping, turning to either the back or the stomach position. Researchers suggest using a pillow or folded blanket between your knees and a body pillow along your back to counteract these problems. They also recommend placing a pillow in front of your stomach, preventing rolling forward.

What If You Cannot Sleep on Your Side?

For some people, the idea of sleeping on their side is impossible. There is nothing wrong with that. While there are health benefits to side sleeping, it is more important that you get and maintain seven to eight hours of sleep every night. True, sleeping on your stomach is the worst position, but if that is the only way you can sleep, try including things to make it more comfortable and healthy. For example, do not turn your head to either side; instead, use a thin pillow and lay completely flat. By keeping your body in line, you can reduce neck or back pain risk. Also, since you know that back and neck pain is typical, do exercises to strengthen these areas.

Do you sleep on your stomach? Leave a comment about it, and check out other blogs from the Smarter Science of Slim about sleep health.

3 Simple Ways To Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

Kegel

Let’s cut to the chase: If you’re a woman, a weakened pelvic floor is just part of the deal as you age. There’s virtually nothing you can do to avoid it, and it has myriad causes: everything from giving birth to a lifetime of coughing.

No, really.

You don’t have to accept it, though. Having leaner, meaner pelvic muscles can improve your sex life and make you less likely to pee a little when your partner tells a joke or your grandson shows you his slick, toddler dance moves. Here are three ways to start strengthening your pelvic floor muscles today.

Kegels

Kegel exercise are basically the gold standard when it comes to regaining pelvic muscle strength. If you gave birth — and had a decent nurse or birthing coach — you were probably advised to start doing these while you were pregnant, as well as to keep them up after you delivered your little bundle of joy... and for the rest of your life.

If Kegel exercise managed to fall off your to-do list, here's quick refresher on how to do them. It's all a matter of contracting and releasing your pelvic muscles. Not sure what those muscles are? No problem (and you’re not alone). Here’s how to pinpoint the muscle group you're targeting: The next time you urinate, stop midstream. Those muscles you used to stop are the same muscles you need to strengthen.

Once you know what you need to flex, you can do your Kegels virtually anywhere. Tighten your pelvic muscles for five seconds (as if you were stopping an imaginary stream). Release and repeat. Shoot for three sets of 10 reps each day. If you have a step tracker or smart watch that prompts you to get up and move periodically, you might get into the habit of doing a set of Kegels before you take a walk around the office or living room. And if you just can’t seem to get them right, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for advice.

Side Steps

Kegels may be effective, but they aren’t for everyone. They also aren’t the only way to strengthen your pelvic floor. Sidestepping exercises can also work the same muscles. Here’s how to do them:

  1. Stand up straight, feet situated shoulders’ width apart.

  2. Squat with your thighs parallel to the floor, or as close to that as you can get. (It gets easier with practice.)

  3. Step to the right, then return your foot to the middle.

  4. Step to the left, then return your foot to the middle.

  5. Repeat for 20 total side steps (or 10 on each foot).

Side steps are a great exercise to squeeze in when you’re already up and taking a break from your desk. Personally, I like to do a set first thing in the morning to help get the blood flowing. Since I started incorporated pelvic muscles exercises into my daily routine, I've noticed that it's helping other parts of my body, too. My back aches a little bit less, for example, and so does my temperamental left hip.

Yoga

If you need another reason to start that yoga practice you've been putting off, here it is. Experts agree that regular yoga sessions are a good way to bolster your pelvic muscles (among many other muscles). Bear in mind that certain poses are more, shall we say, "pelvic-intensive" than others, such as the knees-to-chest and child's poses.

If you fear an accident when you sneeze or laugh at a good joke, you’re not alone. From Beyoncé to Meryl Streep, virtually every adult woman starts to at some point. It’s just another glamorous aspect of womanhood. If you’d like to do it less, however, it’s never too late — or too early, for that matter — to start paying attention to your pelvic floor muscles.