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Exercising with Stress Incontinence: How to Beat the Leaks!

Written by tyemedical on June 16, 2020

Staying committed to a workout routine is tough enough for most of us but exercising with stress incontinence is a double challenge. Even though you remain dedicated to your health, the constant fear of bladder leaks at the gym makes you want to throw in the towel. But a little information and some useful tips can get you back in the gym with a confident smile. 

 

Why Do I Leak Urine During Exercise? 

Stress incontinence is more common among women than men. In both sexes, the urinary sphincter, which acts as a valve to stop the flow of urine, is weakened. Women usually develop stress incontinence after childbirth weakens the pelvic floor muscles. When men experience stress incontinence, it’s often because the urinary sphincter is damaged or affected during prostate surgery.

Without a properly functioning urinary sphincter, you’re not able to stop the flow of urine like before. In the case of women, the weakened pelvic floor can’t engage the urinary sphincter enough to stop urine flow through the urethra. And because a man’s urinary sphincter has been damaged in surgery, he can’t stop the flow either. 

So, when any type of pressure or jarring force is exerted in your pelvic area, it places additional pressure on the bladder and pushes urine toward the exit door. If you have stress incontinence your urinary sphincter can’t stop the flow. Whether it’s a lot or a little depends on the strength of the pelvic floor or sphincter muscles. 

Each person urine leaks differently, and it’s important to understand what types of activities affect you the most, especially if you’re exercising with stress incontinence. 

1. Empty Your Bladder Before Exercise

If you have a mostly empty bladder before you begin any type of exercise, then you can typically stay ahead of the leaks. This lets you get more done before your bladder starts to fill again. But don’t worry if you can’t go right before you hit the gym. You can stop and do a quick check every 20 minutes to see if you can empty.  There’s no shame in taking bathroom breaks during your workout. 

But don’t be tempted to dehydrate yourself. Dehydration concentrates your urine, irritates your bladder, and make symptoms worse. It’s best to stay hydrated – just don’t drink more than you need to before exercise. You can catch up on any additional water needed after you work out.

Avoid Caffeine Before Exercise

Don’t use caffeine to give you an edge during your workout. In fact, it’s more likely be a drag, because it’s a diuretic that causes you to expel urine more quickly. Caffeine is actively working against you when it comes to exercising with stress incontinence. It’s best to stay adequately hydrated with water. 

Don’t Eat a Big Meal First

You probably wouldn’t do this before a workout anyway, but it must be said. Eating a large meal before working out is not only uncomfortable, it’s also a bad idea if you’re exercising with stress incontinence. As your stomach expands and takes up additional space in your abdomen, that pressure is also felt in your pelvic area, putting the squeeze on your bladder, increasing the odds for urine leaks. Instead, opt for a light meal or protein shake.  

Be Smart About Workout Clothes

Sometimes leaks happen, but you can make provisions for this and bring peace of mind. Bladder leakage will be less obvious if you’re wearing loose-fitting clothing in a darker color. Feel free to layer as well. You can wear yoga pants or cycling shorts underneath something looser and still maintain a trendy workout look even when exercising with stress incontinence. 

Ladies, Wear a Tampon

Yeah, it sounds strange at first. (No, we’re not confusing anatomy either.) Tampons place pressure on the urethra, which aids in closing off unwanted urine leaks. Regardless of your age, a tampon can become a great ally in the fight against urine leakage, especially when you’re hitting the gym!

Know the Right Type of Exercises

If you want to stop swimming against the current when it comes to exercising with stress incontinence, then consider the do’s and don’ts of workout routines. 

Avoid high-impact workouts

A high-impact workout jars the body more, because it contains movements that have both feet off the ground at the same time. When those feet hit the ground again, it jars the body – including your bladder. The force instigates urine links – repeatedly. Examples of high-impact workouts include jogging, aerobics, kickboxing, and some body-weight workouts like jumping jacks, high knees, burpees, etc. 

Avoid pelvic pressure in workouts

Any movements that causes pressure in the pelvic area are bad news if you’re exercising with stress incontinence. Additional pressure in this area compresses the bladder and…wham-o! You’ve got leaks. If you want to get your workout in without diminishing your bladder control, stay away from weightlifting and body-weight workouts like lunges, squats, and crunches that push on the pelvis. 

Try Low-Impact Exercise Instead

Low-impact exercises work best with stress incontinence, because at least one of your feet stays on the ground, diminishing impact or body jarring. Your bladder gets more TLC this way. So before heading to the gym or firing up that app on your phone, consider your best workout options. It’s best to replace high-impact exercise with low-impact exercise like: 

  • Walking (outdoor or treadmill)
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical machine
  • Pilates
  • Yoga

If you’re concerned about cardiovascular health (like we all should be), then include cardio exercise like walking, swimming, and the elliptical machine in your workout schedule.  You can still get your heart pumping while minimizing bladder leakage.

Additionally, you might be wondering about cycling or spin class. After all, cycling is low impact. However, it’s probably best to avoid both if you’re exercising with stress incontinence. Body position and the movements involved cause sustained pressure in the pelvic region, pressing the bladder. However, if you just love outdoor cycling, check out this article that has a few tips to try

Kegels Help

Along with core-strengthening yoga and Pilates, Kegels assist in strengthening your pelvic floor muscles and improving stress incontinence. So while you’re exercising (or even when you’re not) remember to get in your daily does of Kegel exercises to boost your bladder control.  

 

Premium Protection for Exercising with Stress Incontinence

No one wants to be caught off guard, so it’s best to slip on some protection before diving into your daily workout. 

Do you just leak a little? Then try out our LivDry line of ultra-thin pads that come in levels of absorbency from light to ultimate. They’re perfect for discreet protection with premium odor control technology. 

Do you leak more than just a little? Then check out our LivDry Protective Underwear that contain a super absorbent gel core with high leak protection. You’ll get the discreet protection you need, especially with layered or looser fitting workout bottoms. 

Don’t let stress incontinence spoil your workout schedule – or your general health!