Exercising with incontinence

Living and exercising with incontinence can pose many challenges. Your workout routine can be directly affected by unwanted leakage due to strain from exercise. Studies have shown that sadly, up to 20% of women have reported quitting their physical activities due to incontinence.1

Bladder leakage during exercise can be caused by a condition called Stress Urinary Incontinence. Stress Urinary Incontinence is a type of incontinence that can occur when you have a weak pelvic floor or sphincter muscle and increased pressure is placed on your bladder.

This can happen with things like sneezing, coughing, laughing and strenuous forms of working out.

What exercises should I avoid with incontinence?

There are many ways to keep fit and maintain your workouts without doing damage to your pelvic floor.

Exercises such as skipping, running, jumping, or sports where you change direction suddenly can increase the chance of leakage.

These type of activities can cause a much greater downward strain on the bladder, risking leakage and damage to the pelvic floor, over time this can stretch and weaken the pelvic floor muscles which can lead to bladder or bowel control issues.2

Excessive weights and core training such as crunches and lunges should also be reduced or practised in the comfort of your own home. When executed correctly, some lighter core training such as planking can help strengthen your pelvic floor.

Activities such as swimming, cycling, walking, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates and Kegels are wonderful alternatives to add to your workout.

Lady exercising with child sitting next to her

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles with kegel exercises

Pelvic floor exercises can be extremely beneficial for both women and men.

The perks of practicing these simple strengthening exercises include a lower risk of vaginal and rectal prolapse, better bowel and bladder control, and improved recovery after childbirth or prostate surgery.

Kegels are the most common pelvic floor exercise. They work by tightening the muscles that control urine flow over time.

These can be practised by following these simple steps –

  • Sit in a comfortable position, close the eyes, and visualize the muscles that can stop urine flow.
  • Tighten these muscles as much as possible.
  • Hold this position for 3–5 seconds. It should feel as though the muscles are lifting up as a result of the squeezing.
  • Release the muscles and rest for several seconds.
  • Repeat up to 10 times.

Another common variation of this is the squeeze and release, similar to the Kegel, this rapid fire exercise builds the ability of the pelvic floor muscle and response time.

  • Sit in a comfortable position.
  • Picture the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Squeeze the muscles as quickly as possible and release without attempting to sustain a contraction.
  • Rest for 3–5 seconds.
  • Repeat the movement 10–20 times.
  • Repeat the exercise twice later in the day.3

It is always recommended to book in to see a physical therapist who can show you how to correctly perform these exercises especially when exercising with incontinence.

Monitoring your water intake before a workout

Although it is very important to keep up your fluids during exercise, it is recommended that you always empty your bladder fully before your workout and limit your fluids until after you have finished your workout. You should avoid caffeinated drinks as these can irritate the bladder and increase the chance of an accident.

Wear continence protection

Plenty of discreet and highly absorbent products are now on the market, if you want to continue to exercise with incontinence, you may need a little assistance.

Protection can come in the form of liners, pads and pants. Products such as Tena Active and Tena Discreet are specifically made to look as close as possible to general underwear and are ideal for people on the go. Continence liners, pad and pants are made to cater for all different types of absorbency, the severity of your leakage will determine which type of product you choose. You can view our full range of continence products.

More incontinence advice

Looking for more tips on managing incontinence? Check out our wide range of health tips from leading health professionals.