Summertime means longer daylight hours, higher temperatures, and more opportunities for outdoor fun. Summer is also a great time for people suffering from incontinence to amp up their fitness – both in a general sense, and in terms of practicing the specific pelvic exercises (AKA “Kegels”) that can ameliorate incontinence issues.
At the same time, however, summertime – in many parts of the U.S. – can bring with it oppressively hot temperatures, accompanied by high humidity levels, that can make exercise uncomfortable – and perhaps even dangerous – especially for those whose general health may not be so good to begin with.
Consequently, it’s important to approach summertime exercising in a prudent, balanced way, and it’s always best to consult with your primary care provider before embarking on any program of exercise or physical therapy.
Here, then, are some tips for people with incontinence who want to amp up their fitness in the summer months ahead.
- Watch the weather. Even if you’re not exercising, spending too much time outdoors during the summer months can tax your body’s cooling system, which can cause a variety of problems, the most serious of which is heatstroke. Keep an eye both on the projected temperature and the heat index; if you want to take a walk, run, bike ride, or engage in other physical activity, choose the early morning or dusk hours.
- Ease into summer exercising. The benefits of exercise accrue to those who do them each day, so even light daily workouts – over time – can add up to major fitness improvements. If you forget to exercise regularly, put up a reminder in a visible place (or program your mobile device with a daily reminder that it’s time to work out).
- Dress sensibly and comfortably. Yes, it’s always “safer” to wear dark clothing, because unwanted leakage is easier to conceal with a dark hue. However, dark hues soak up heat faster than light ones, so wear a light-colored hat and top to stay cool when you’re exercising. To ensure that leakage doesn’t become a problem during your exercise routine, make sure you’re wearing breathable, heavy absorbency pants or panties before heading out.
- Hydrate! Bring a water bottle with you, fill it with H20, and keep it close at hand while you exercise. Avoid beverages with caffeine or alcohol: these are diuretics that will not help you replace the body water you will lose as you sweat, and may cause you to want to urinate more frequently.
- Head indoors if heat and humidity start bothering you. While exercise is great for getting your body in shape, there’s nothing wrong with heading indoors – to a gym or an exercise area in your home – if the weather forecast calls for blistering, humid heat.
- Focus on exercise that keeps you cool at the same time. Water aerobics and bicycle riding are great summer exercise choices because they’ll give you an aerobic workout while keeping you cool at the same time.
- Practice your Kegels. Kegel exercises — also known as PFMT (pelvic floor muscle training or simply “pelvic exercises”) are low-impact, low-stress exercises you can do while driving, at the movies, at the beach, or while chilling in the shade. They’ll strengthen the all-important pelvic floor muscles that – in many incontinence sufferers – need toning in order to provide better control over unwanted leakage. While Kegels are exercises that many people with incontinence can benefit from, you may need to be coached by a physiotherapist if you find them difficult to perform correctly.