How does fitness fit into your family plan? Whether you are embarking on the exciting adventures of parenthood or enjoying the pleasures of being a grandparent, staying strong and healthy is essential for surviving this fun yet physically taxing time.

Taking care of a tiny tyke is a life-altering experience. It takes a lot of energy and stamina to keep up with the physical demands, such as repetitive bending, lifting, and chasing of a child. Not to mention adjusting to a sporadic sleep schedule.

I should know — I gave birth to a baby boy in late April, which inspired me to dive into family fitness this month. Over the next few weeks, we will cover all the ways in which moms-to-be, spouses, grandparents (and everyone in between) can protect and prepare their bodies to welcome a baby into their lives, as well as keeping healthy in the years beyond birth.

To start this new chapter, we will focus on a valuable yet often neglected part of the body that everyone, regardless of your age or stage in life, would benefit from strengthening: the pelvic floor. (I realized the importance of this early on in my pregnancy when I sneezed at a T.J. Maxx and wet my pants.)

Most of us aren’t familiar with the pelvic floor and its powerful purpose. If you’ve ever experienced that aching sensation of having to urgently use the restroom but were lucky enough to “hold it” in time to avoid an accident, you can thank your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles at the base of the pelvis act as a firm support system for the pelvic organs such as the bladder, bowels, rectum, and prostate (for men) or uterus (for women). It’s like a hammock holding everything up and in place.

It’s not until the body ages, atrophies from inactivity, or sustains traumas from life events such as childbirth or having a C-section, that the pelvic floor weakens. From this, a series of frustrating problems can develop such as leakage when coughing, sneezing, or laughing, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and a poorly stabilized spine.

To engage and strengthen this vital part of the body, try these easy exercises:

But first, find your floor pelvic muscles: During your bathroom breaks, engage these muscles by interrupting your flow. Do this by squeezing and holding in your urine three times. Practice this washroom workout each time you use the restroom as a quick and effective way to power up your pelvic floor.

Kegels: This move allows you to practice your pelvic strength building session anywhere — even from the comfort of your sofa! And no one will even detect you’re doing it.

  • Remember how your muscles were engaged when stopping the flow of urine. Whether you are sitting or standing, mimic this action by squeezing and holding this contraction for five seconds. Release and repeat 10 times. Practice this 8 to 10 times each day.
  • Once you are familiar with this exercise, challenge yourself by increasing the time for which you activate these muscles. Increase your hold time to 10 seconds of contraction followed by 10 seconds of relaxation. Repeat 10 times. Remember to breathe while you brace.

Now that you’ve mastered the Kegel, boost its effectiveness by incorporating it into these body weight resistance training moves:

Glute bridge Kegels

  • Begin on your back with legs hip-width apart and arms extended to your sides (palms down) for support.
  • Engage your pelvic muscles and squeeze your glutes tight as you push through your heels to elevate your hips. Hold for 5 counts while continuing to engage these muscles.
  • Lower your hips and release your pelvic contraction. Repeat 10 times.
Glute bridge
Ashley Greenblatt
Glute bridge

Jumping jack Kegels

  • Activate your pelvic floor muscles and squeeze them tight as you jump your arms and legs out into a wide jumping jack stance.
  • Release this contraction when jumping your legs back together. Continue this squeeze/relax sequence, moving briskly, for 25 repetitions.

Squat Kegels

  • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • With your body weight in your heels, brace your pelvic muscles, hinge back at your hips, and lower into a squat. Your thighs should be about parallel with the floor and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Hold this pelvic contraction for five seconds, then relax your muscles as you push through your heels to stand. Repeat 10 times.
Proper squat form
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Proper squat form

For best results, practice Kegels daily and this entire circuit three times in a row, three times a week.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in South Jersey. To learn more about her virtual training program, go to ashleyblakefitness.com.