Let me just put one word out there: Kegel exercises. If you’re a woman and you’re reading this, you’ve probably suddenly grown hyper aware of the area below your waist. You have also probably started instinctually clenching your vagina muscles while seated in front of your laptop. You can’t help it. If you’re a man, you might be confused and start tensing your thighs. Kegel and pelvic floor exercises are kind of like flossing — you know you should do it, but every now and then, you need to be reminded.
For the uninitiated, pelvic floor muscles are like a trampoline of connective tissue at the bottom of the pelvis that supports the bladder, bowels, and uterus. Still lost? Think of the muscles you use when you’re trying to stop a stream of urine — take a few seconds — yeah, that’s the Kegels you’re working.
Despite the often touted wonders of working out your Kegels — pregnancy and postpartum recovery, bladder control, back stability, and, of course, increased sexual pleasure — Kegels are overwhelmingly neglected by most women. So, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a tool out there that could make pelvic exercises feel less like jury duty for your junk?
That’s the idea behind the kGoal, the first ever smart Kegel trainer from Minna Life, which is part device and part app. The kGoal (yes, it’s pretty much a homophone of Kegel) works to guide you through exercise routines, measure your performance, and track your progress on your way to a toned pelvis. Is this Fitbit for your vagina? Basically, yes.
The kGoal just launched a Kickstarter campaign (it made it through the notoriously puritanical hoops) this week. The main section of the device is a body-safe silicone pillow that is adjustable for a variety of body types. The pillow measures the intensity of your vaginal squeezes as you flex and it also includes a small motor that provides real-time vibrational feedback during your pelvic floor routines. The accompanying app can communicate and control the USB-ready kGoal, helping to track progress and shape future work outs.
While the benefits of pelvic floor exercises are very diverse, Brian Krieger, CEO of Minna Life, explains to Nerve that “broadly speaking, we expect women to use the product for improving sexual health, creating stronger pelvic floor muscles to improve sensation, orgasm quality, arousal — because of improved pelvic vascularity — and general sexual experience.” All of these benefits of Kegels have been extensively proven through clinical studies. Regular Kegel routines can take a medium-good orgasm and ramp it up to ridiculously-ridiculously-good.
However, Minna is also focused on the less-sexy advantages of doing pelvic floor exercises, claiming kGoal helps with basic pelvic floor function, such as incontinence and postpartum difficulties. Now we really get into the nitty-gritty unsexy truth: over 76 percent of women will experience incontinence at some point in their life. Let’s be clear — most women aren’t in a perpetual state of peeing their pants, but Kegels can do a lot to prevent complications that can occur later in life. “Since the subject can be a bit embarrassing, it isn’t talked about as often as it should be. As with any other muscle group, it’s better to proactively exercise than to try to recover after you’ve already started having problems,” Krieger explains.
If Kegels seem so integral to women’s health, how come we all aren’t walking around, shopping for tonight’s Caprese salad and grilled chicken while calming flexing our vaginal muscles through the grocery aisles? Over the last century, myriad devices have been invented to help work the pelvic floor muscles at home, including medieval-sounding contraptions like barbells, vaginal weights, cones, electro-stimulation devices, resistance balls, and spring exercisers. But studies show that the most effective way to keep a vag in check is through good ol’ fashioned reps with a trainer, because what women really need when it comes to Kegels isn’t haphazard squeezes, but guidance. Studies have shown that 30 percent of women who do Kegels need actual feedback to perform those exercises correctly.
What separates kGoal from its predecessors like oft-cited fitness-pleasure toys like Ben Wa Balls is that it mimics the experience of having your own personal trainer for your lady bits. “The ability to track your performance and put some data around it is really powerful,” Krieger says. “Most importantly in our eyes, it enables a much more engaging experience.” While Minna was doing research for the kGoal, they heard the common refrain: “Kegel exercises are boring.” Which is where the built-in vibrator comes in — though it’s mainly built for feedback. “This is not a trojan horse situation where kGoal is actually a vibrator. Building on what makes kGoal unique, one issue that we really wanted to address was how to convince people to do their Kegel exercises,” Krieger explains. The better you are at your Kegels, the more you’ll be rewarded.
Apart from the unique vibrations, the app’s personalization component also contributes to sustaining good pelvic habits. A physical therapist at Minna told me, “you will know you’re making progress because you’ll feel stronger, you’ll be able to see the strength of your contractions improve via the app.” However, like all muscles in the body, Kegels are of the move-it-or-lose-it variety. “Research shows that there are long term gains to short term programs. This means you can work hard to gain strength and then keep it for a period of time with only minimal or moderate maintenance,” Minna adds.
Whether you think you need a biscuit tune-up or not, the kGoal is another tool that’s become a part of the deluge of tracker apps, systems built to document life through data, to gamify human experience. The best we can hope from this technology is a way to challenge ourselves, play against our own fears in a crowded schedule, tighten up our fitness habits. And release.