More women than you think experience urinary incontinence during exercise. It occurs in twice as much in women than in men, mainly because of a woman’s anatomy. This is something that many women experience however we often don’t hear much about it because it tends to be an embarrassing subject.
It’s important to stay active in every stage of our life. Cardiovascular exercise keeps our circulation, muscles, bones and mind strong. However, as a woman’s body changes, either with the natural aging process, after childbirth, or due to the changes in the genitourinary tract, women of all ages can experience urinary incontinence during exercise.
Running tends to be the exercise that causes this the most due to the impact of the exercise, however any workout that involves standing movement can cause urinary incontinence. This can cause apprehension for women who are experiencing this to fully preform the exercise they love to do.
Some specific reasons for why women experience leakage of urine when they run include:
– Weak pelvic floor muscles (and quite often coupled with weak core strength…both are connected). The Pelvic Floor is a hammock of muscles that the urethra passes through. The urethra connects the bladder to the outside of our body so we can urinate. The muscles and nerves of the pelvic floor assist in pinching the urethra closed when its not time to urinate. A strong pelvic floor is important!
– Childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor and change the way nerves in the genitourinary tract function
– Interstitial cystitis is a chronic inflammatory state of the bladder that can weaken the bladder and create the sensation of urgency to urinate and frequent urination
– Certain Medications can cause an overactive bladder
– Bladder Prolapse can happen with age or secondary to childbirth or a hysterectomy
– Alcohol and coffee can cause an overactive bladder, too…
What To Do About It?
There are many natural solutions to address this health concerns. Doing one or a combination of these can alleviate the need to pee during exercise.
1) Hold off on fluids the night before your run or exercise class if you are planning to workout in the morning. Be sure to bring water with you to your workout so you can hydrate throughout as needed and rehydrate after your workout.
2) Urinate frequently before your workout…even right up to the moment before your class, heading out on the path for your run or stepping on the treadmill.
3) Kegel Exercises. Do as many as you can, as often as you can, every day. Totally boring… can be easily forgotten… but these can be VERY effective at strengthening your pelvic floor.
4) Core Strengthening / Pilates can really help strengthen the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is part of “The Core” (abdominals, side muscles, back muscles and pelvic floor).
5) Prevent Constipation. One bowel movement a day, or more, is the sign of healthy and regular digestive function. Less than this can increase pressure in the intestinal tract, which can put secondary pressure on the bladder.
6) Check your medication. If you are taking medication, read the fine print in the monograph that comes with it and see if there are any known effects on the urinary system.
7) Limit or Avoid Coffee, Caffeinated beverages and Alcohol. These irritate and weaken the bladder, leading to urgency and frequency.
8) Limit or Avoid Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners, like Saccharine, Corn Syrup and Aspartame. These also irritate and weaken the bladder.
9) Check with your doctor if you suspect a prolapse of your bladder. A female physical exam can determine if this is a cause.
10) Prepared for your workout. Do what you feel resonates with you: wear dark clothing, wear a panty liner or a pad. A little bit of unseen pee versus wearing a protective lining? Both? What works for you?
11) Laugh a little. It happens. To more of us than you know.
These tips help women keep up their exercise and not think about anything else other than the sound of their heart beat, their breathing or their activity. The more you do, the more successful you can be at preventing incontinence. So you can get out there, pound the pavement/treadmill/cardio room floor, and have fun!