It takes inner strength to a whole new level
You can go to a gym and find a machine or a resistance technique to work on most of the muscles in your body. Want great glutes? Get squatting. Triceps sagging? Try some dips. Dreaming of washboard abs? Jump on the crunch bench. What you won’t see, though, is a piece of equipment for the muscles in your vagina. This isn’t entirely surprising; gym equipment is very much focussed on the muscles you can see and exercising your pelvic floor muscles isn’t exactly going to offer you any aesthetic improvements – you don’t often see women say “hey watch me flex my vagina” – but it is fairly important that you keep these muscles between your tail bone and pubic bone strong. No doubt if you’ve ever read an article about sex in a women’s magazine you’ve read about Kegel exercises and the benefits of having a strong pelvic floor when it comes to sensation (this is how I first encountered the topic) but the importance of this group of muscles in our health goes beyond good sex.
Having strong pelvic floor muscles is also beneficial before and after childbirth; it helps maintain bladder control and fight incontinence; and it contributes to improving your overall core fitness which can even help with back pain. Our pelvic floor muscles are weakened by a variety of things such as pregnancy, impact sports, and the simple process of ageing, so it’s pretty much inevitable that they’ll become weaker. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to put off purchasing Tena Lady for as long as possible so I’ve decided to take a much more active interest in my vagina’s fitness.
This is where Elvie from British health company Chiaro comes in. Elvie is probably the most personal fitness tracker you could possibly own since it’s dedicated solely to helping you exercise your pelvic floor and tracking your progress. It’s a small app-connected device that’s inserted into the vagina when you’re practising your Kegels and it uses motion sensors to track your muscle movements and make sure you’re performing the exercises properly. If you’re not doing it right, which generally means you’re pushing the muscles instead of pulling them, Elvie’s app will let you know as it measures you muscle movements in real-time.
The app doesn’t only monitor how well you’re doing the exercises, it gives you specific 5 minute workouts to ensure your strength and control continues to grow. The app is iOS and Android compatible and its design is discreet and pleasant to look at, which you would expect since it was created by same digital design studio behind Monument Valley.
The workouts are presented more like games than workouts and they actually make the experience more fun. At the beginning of each session you have to measure your pelvic floor’s lift strength by lifting an on-screen gem as high as you can. Once you’ve established your peak lift strength the app starts up the games which are dependent on your level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) and the strength of your initial lift. The games include lifting a gem above a set line and holding it there for a set number of seconds; pulsing your muscles as quickly as you can to clear the screen of some stationary targets; and timing your pulses to hit targets as the screen scrolls past them.
The games are clever and as weird as it feels at first to play them it’s easy to become invested, particularly if you’re the competitive type. I also enjoyed the games largely because it pleased me to think of the horror that might be expressed by some of the less pleasant corners of the gaming community at the idea of a woman using her vagina to play a smartphone game.
After you finish a 5-minute session, your score is saved in the app so that you can keep track of your personal bests and watch your progress over time. Something I found is that you certainly can’t expect consistency in your scores which makes me wonder if it’s the best system for tracking improvements due to its linearity. My own scores were affected by simple things like whether I was sitting, lying, or standing or even the time of day. It’s probably advisable not to use Elvie’s scoring system to identify short-term improvements and instead look at your progress over several weeks or months instead as by looking at results this way I have seen some improvements.
In terms of appearance, Elvie has a pleasant design that is, incredibly, not pink. I initially panicked when I unboxed the device because the actual part that you insert is stored inside a cylindrical tube that also doubles as a charger and there was no way that was going anywhere. But the actual Elvie itself is small, pebble-shaped, and not at all intimidating which is exactly what you want from a medical gadget you’re going to be putting in your vagina.
If you’d like the device to be larger for a more comfortable fit it even comes with a silicone cover to make that happen. Elvie is made from medical-grade silicone so there’s little need to worry about irritation or discomfort. The material also makes it extremely easy to clean; it’s just a case of rinsing it under some warm water. When you’re finished using Elvie you simply pop it into the charger case and plug this into a power source via USB but you won’t have to do this very often since I found a charge lasted a few weeks.
Elvie could no doubt be used to combat an existing problem with pelvic floor muscles but I intend to continue using it for prevention purposes, which makes it fairly well-suited to a wide age range. Like any exercise, these take practice but considering the benefits of doing them properly we think Elvie is worth picking up.