If you enjoy an active lifestyle — running, crossfit, weight training or high-impact sports, you might be surprised to learn that you may be at greater risk of bladder leaks (called stress urinary incontinence or SUI). Say it isn’t so! Unfortunately, exercise incontinence is real.
Studies show that urinary incontinence is common among women who exercise. In fact, exercising women have 3 times the risk of experiencing leaks.1 The risk appears to be greater with higher impact activities, compared to less strenuous exercise such as walking or yoga.
More research is needed to understand the effect of physical activity and the pelvic floor. And because each woman’s body and exercise program is unique, it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions based on studies to date. (Interested readers should check out this scientific review published in Sports Medicine.)
Seems wrong, doesn’t it? You live a healthy life, pursue your passions and end up with leaks! Thank goodness for pads and black running pants! If you’d like to move beyond these stop-gap measures while living your best life, here are some things to consider:
What you can do about exercise incontinence
- Consult with a health care professional, such as an OB/GYN, urogynecologist, urologist (yes, they treat women too!), nurse practitioner, or pelvic floor physical therapist (specially trained experts in evaluating and treating a person’s pelvic floor muscles)
- Explore conservative treatment options such as Flyte. Start here.
- Try some preventative steps:
- Empty your bladder before exercise to avoid extra strain.
- Limit caffeine. We know this one’s a challenge, but caffeine can irritate the bladder, making leaks more likely.
- Ease up on spicy foods, also a common bladder irritant, to see if that makes a difference for you.
No one should have to step back from their passions because of bladder leaks. Don’t let the leaks hold you back. Explore the right solution for you and keep moving!
1 Bø, K., Nygaard, I.E. Is Physical Activity Good or Bad for the Female Pelvic Floor? A Narrative Review. Sports Med 50, 471–484 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-019-01243-1