Bladder and bowel problems can affect anyone, but you shouldn't let them put you off exercise.
In addition, everyone can benefit from regular pelvic floor exercises to improve bladder and bowel control whatever your age. Here's some tips on how to get started:
- If you leak during jumping or high impact activities try to draw up and tighten your pelvic floor muscles before the increase in pressure – this will help the pelvic floor resist the downward movement of the bladder. This is easier if it is a short burst of movement like jumping off or over something, hitting a golf ball, or a tennis serve. You may need specialist help to improve your pelvic floor to an advanced level for a continuous high impact activity like running or riding.
- The pelvic floor and your internal organs are well supported on a bicycle. Do treat yourself to an extra comfortable seat if you spend a long time in the saddle to reduce pressure on the tissues and bones. Remember to activate your pelvic floor when you lift out of the saddle or have to push extra hard.
- If you find star jumps difficult - keep your feet together as you jump and just move your arms. No one else will notice that you are doing something a little different. It is much easier to keep your pelvic floor muscles working when your legs are close together.
- Crunch-style sit ups can cause pressure downward on the pelvic organs. Be extra conscious of first contracting the pelvic floor for support before you lift your head and shoulders. Go slowly and focus on good technique.
- You can reduce impact on the pelvic floor by wearing good quality, cushioned and supportive shoes.
- Make sure you use the whole pelvic floor when you do your exercises as it is much bigger than you think. Tense up the front area where the bladder tube comes out and also tighten the muscles around the back passage where wind would escape. Using the two areas together gives better bladder support than each alone.
- Relaxing the pelvic floor is actually an exercise too. Pelvic floor muscles can become tender and uncomfortable if you tighten them too long or too tight. Between pelvic floor squeezes make sure you relax the muscles underneath completely. In an exercise session avoid the temptation to ‘grip’ all the time. Allow the muscles to join in more and then less depending on what you are doing.
- Stretch the pelvic floor area after exercise just as you do your legs and arms. Yoga poses like Butterfly and Child Pose are good relaxation postures.
- If you tend to leak when you cough or sneeze try to draw up and tighten your pelvic floor muscles as you put their hand to their mouth - before the increase in abdominal pressure - to help the pelvic floor resist the downward movement of the bladder
- If you lack confidence in your bladder, many women wear an absorbent pad or specially designed pants. There are also bladder support devices that go inside the vagina. These are great to let you participate in sport and activities. However, do remember that though a common problem, it is not a problem that you need to endure. Leaking from the bladder and bowel can be treated – so do seek help to remedy the problem fully and to get advice tailored for your specific needs.
- Everyone can benefit from regular pelvic floor exercises to improve bladder and bowel control. There is no upper age limit and you can download free exercise information booklets for both men and women from the POGP website.
Find out how exercise helped Anna Curtis overcome an incontinence problem.