How to strengthen your pelvic floor

Emma Mitchell
Physiotherapist at Bupa UK
10 May 2023
Next review due May 2026

Everyone has pelvic floor muscles. They work together to support your bladder and bowels, and help you control when you go to the toilet. Over time, your pelvic floor can weaken. Here, I look at signs of pelvic floor weakness. And, I give some exercises you can try at home to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

group of people practising yoga on a mat

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that help you control when you open your bladder and bowels to go to the toilet. Lots of factors can increase the risk of weakened pelvic floor muscles, such as:

Performing pelvic floor exercises can be a good way to help protect and strengthen these muscles. And, they can help to improve the strength of your pelvic floor if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor weakness.

What are the signs of a weak pelvic floor?

If you have pelvic floor weakness, you might experience symptoms such as:

  • leaking pee (urine) when laughing, coughing, or when lifting heavy items
  • feeling the need to pee very urgently when you need to use the toilet

Sometimes, more severe pelvic floor weakness can cause pelvic organ prolapse. This is when the pelvic organs (your bladder, bowel, and womb) bulge and move into the vagina. This can happen when the pelvic floor muscles are too weak to hold them in their usual place. If you have pelvic organ prolapse, you may:

  • have a dragging or heavy feeling in your pelvic area
  • feel or see a bulge in your vagina
  • have trouble fully emptying your bladder or bowel

If you have any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor.

How long does it take to strengthen your pelvic floor?

Regularly performing pelvic floor exercises can help to tighten your pelvic floor muscles. But, it’s important to be consistent, and practise regularly.

As with any exercise, it can take time and practice before you notice an improvement in muscle strength. So try not to give up if you don’t notice an improvement straight away. In the meantime, lifestyle changes like limiting caffeine can also help with some of the symptoms you may have.

It’s recommended that you continue with a pelvic floor exercise routine for at least three months. But if you can, include them in your daily routine for longer, to help keep your pelvic floor strong.

What are the best pelvic floor exercises?

The main exercise recommended to strengthen your pelvic floor are often called ‘kegels.’ You can practice them whether you’re standing, sitting, or lying down. Try following the steps below.

  • Squeeze the muscles that you use when trying to stop yourself from passing pee (urine) and breaking wind. If you’re unsure, you might find it helpful to put two fingers inside your vagina, and practice squeezing around your fingers. This can help you to check you’re using the correct muscles.
  • Don’t tighten your stomach, bottom, and thigh muscles at the same time – and avoid holding your breath.
  • Hold this muscle squeeze for 10 seconds (you might need to build up to this at first) then relax for 5 seconds.
  • After holding for 10 seconds, and when you feel able to, try doing 10 quick squeezes.
  • Always take a rest between squeezes.

Practise this routine three times each day if you can, and try to make kegel exercises part of your daily routine. You could try and practise them while sitting at your desk, for example, or while in the car.

Pelvic floor apps are also available that can guide you through these exercises. They can also send helpful reminders to practise throughout the day.

What exercises should I avoid with a weak pelvic floor?

There’s some evidence to suggest that high impact activities, like running and jumping, might put extra strain on the pelvic floor. And, this could lead to pelvic floor weakness in some people.

If you take part in high impact sports, and you’re worried you’re experiencing pelvic floor weakness, visit your GP. They may refer you to a pelvic health physiotherapist. They can advise whether you should avoid certain exercises after assessing you. And, from learning more about your individual circumstances and history.

You may also be able to visit a physiotherapist through your health insurance, if you have it. Always check with your insurance provider beforehand to check what is covered under your policy.

Pelvic floor weakness can cause some unpleasant symptoms. But by performing regular strengthening exercises, over time, lots of people notice an improvement in their symptoms.

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Emma Mitchell
Emma Mitchell
Physiotherapist at Bupa UK



Lucy Kapoutsos, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

    • Pelvic floor exercises in men. The British Association of Urological Surgeons. Published September 2020
    • Pelvic floor exercises. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Last reviewed 25 October 2021
    • Pelvic floor dysfunction: prevention and non-surgical management. NICE guideline NG210. NICE. Published 9 December 2021
    • Hysterectomy. Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. Accessed April 2023
    • Urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse in women: management. NICE guideline NG123. Last updated 24 June 2019
    • RCOG calling for action to reduce number of women living with poor pelvic floor health. RCOG news. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Published 2 February 2023
    • Pelvic organ prolapse patient information leaflet. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Accessed April 2023
    • National Guideline Alliance (UK). Lifestyle factors for the prevention of pelvic floor dysfunction: Pelvic floor dysfunction: prevention and non-surgical management: Evidence review E. London: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE); 2021 Dec. (NICE Guideline, No. 210.)
    • Urinary incontinence in women – patient discussions. BMJ Best Practice. Last updated 12 April 2023
    • Karmakar D, Dwyer PL. High impact exercise may cause pelvic floor dysfunction: FOR: Scale, strengthen, protect! BJOG. 2018 Apr;125(5):614. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.15025. PMID: 29577568. High impact exercise may cause pelvic floor dysfunction: FOR: Scale, strengthen, protect! - PubMed (

About our health information

At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. This is because we believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and wellbeing.

Our information has been awarded the PIF TICK for trustworthy health information. It also follows the principles of the The Information Standard.

The Patient Information Forum tick

Learn more about our editorial team and principles >

Did you find our advice helpful?

We’d love to hear what you think. Our short survey takes just a few minutes to complete and helps us to keep improving our healthy lifestyle articles.

Content is loading