You already know the advantages of staying active. Building strength, keeping your heart healthy, improving bone density and simple stress relief are welcome benefits. But are worries about bladder leakage putting a damper on your active lifestyle?
Lots of us can relate. Just ask any personal trainer what happens when they tell their female clients to get ready for jumping jacks, jump rope, box jumps—basically anything involving jumping. Those women—even in the middle of a workout—will say, “Wait one second; let me go to the bathroom first.” We all know that leaps are bound to put stress on our bladders, and we’re bound to spring leaks.
The good news is, it’s not only possible but also advantageous to keep exercising, even with incontinence concerns. Just make sure to empty your bladder before you train or play and use protective pads, liners or underwear to give you some extra peace of mind.
In the same way we recommend talking to your doctor about incontinence, it’s a good idea to talk to a personal trainer about what exercise routines and activities are best if your bladder leaks. Obviously jumping, heavy lifting and sports that put extra pressure on your bladder aren’t ideal. You don’t have to give up your volleyball league or skip the squats and lunges, but you’ll want to pay attention to your level of exertion.
If you’re adjusting your fitness regimen around incontinence, working one-on-one with a personal trainer can be a great place to start. Many specialize in customizing exercise routines that put less stress on your bladder, point you to more accommodating exercise equipment and give you the moral support you need to stay focused on being awesome rather than worrying about having an accident at the gym. Just remember you need to be up-front and honest with them when you begin!
Getting stronger (especially in your pelvic floor) and shedding extra weight is almost always going to reduce bladder stress. If you’re completely new to getting and staying active, follow the old coaches’ advice of starting slowly and tapering down. Check with your local health clubs, gyms and community centers to see if they offer low-impact step, aerobic or strength and conditioning classes. Ask about yoga tailored to new moms or to peri- or post-menopausal women. You’ll find yourself in the company of sympathetic instructors—plus lots of women who, like you, are determined to not let their lives be limited by bladder leakage.
The most important point is to stay active. A sedentary lifestyle is not good for your well-being and can have a really negative effect on bladder health. Staying on the couch ups your risk of gaining unwanted weight, which means more bladder stress and increased strain on those all-important pelvic floor muscles. And in the same way maintaining a healthy weight cuts your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis, it also reduces the likelihood of diabetes—which can be a serious contributor to incontinence. According to some studies, in fact, more than half of women who are able to get back to their ideal weight ultimately eliminate their incontinence issues!
Finally, regardless of where you’re starting out, the class you take or workout routine you follow, don’t make the mistake of avoiding water. It’s much safer to maintain a healthy fluid intake and simply step out for bathroom breaks or use discreet, protective pads to stop leaks. Many women also make a point to wear dark workout wear, which does a better job hiding those occasional little drips.
Remember, when it comes to living with incontinence, deciding not to exercise is really not your best decision. If you’re already active, you know how good it is for you. And if you’re getting started on the path to getting into better shape, don’t take yourself out of the game because you’re worried about leaks.