Exercising with Stress Incontinence
Stress incontinence is characterized by urine leakage occurring when a person is active or puts stress on their bladder. This means that when someone laughs, coughs, sneezes, or exercises, they may leak urine. Sometimes the leaks are only a few drops, and other times it may be more.
The severity of the incontinence will determine how bad the leak is. For some people, only light activity is needed to cause a leak, and for others, vigorous activity is required. Either way, exercising with stress incontinence can be a challenge.
About one in five women suffer from stress incontinence. Leakage during exercise may be keeping you from the gym, but regular exercise is important for good health. The following are a few strategies that will enable you to do physical activity despite your level of stress incontinence.
Strategy one: Wear the right clothes.
When you have stress incontinence, it is important to wear workout clothes that provide compression. Consider a pair of triathlon or bike shorts. They not only provide the support needed but have a light pad for moisture absorption and can be worn under shorts or sweats.
Strategy two: Choose the right exercise.
Exercising can cause leakage, but certain moves and exercises will lead to more of it than others. For those looking to work out with stress incontinence, avoid exercises that involve bearing down, such as crunches, double leg raises, or weight training where you hold your breath. Instead, choose activities that lift the chest, reduce bladder pressure, and lengthen the spine, such as swimming, biking, and yoga.
Strategy three: Take bathroom breaks.
Sometimes it really is that simple. If you want to participate in vigorous exercise, take a bathroom break beforehand. If you feel the need, take one during the exercise. Keep your bladder empty while you exercise to avoid leaks.
Strategy four: Choose the right hydration.
Do not dehydrate yourself. Dehydration can make bladder control worse as the urine is more concentrated and can irritate the bladder. Stay hydrated and choose the right method of hydration. Water is the best option. Don’t overhydrate since this can overfill the bladder with an increased risk of leakage. Constant overhydration can cause problems with the salt balance in your body.
Strategy five: Strengthen those muscles.
The pelvic floor muscles are what control the bladder, so to help strengthen those muscles do Kegel exercises and other exercises to strengthen the transverse abdominals. A trainer or physical therapist who is familiar with and/or focuses on women’s health, including bladder health, can help you learn to pinpoint, engage and exercise all the muscles in the pelvis.
Strategy six: Absorbent Products
Absorbent products will not stop you from leaking urine, but they will catch the leak, keeping you dry and confident. Pads, pantyliners, guards, and other low-profile, discreet products can offer the protection you need while exercising.
Strategy seven: See your doctor
If you are doing all of the above and still feel like the leakage is out of control, consider going to the doctor. Surgery can help reduce incontinence in some cases. There are minimally invasive surgeries that can be done to improve the condition, and these are usually offered on an outpatient basis.