Do You Suffer from Stress Incontinence During Workouts?

Urine leakage from stress incontinence during workouts is a common problem that in most cases can be overcome.

Have you ever been startled to realize that you are leaking urine while strenuously exercising? If so, as they say: welcome to the club. Millions of Americans experience what is known as stress incontinence – urine leakage caused by physical stress on the bladder. According to the American Urology Association’s Urinary Care Foundation, stress incontinence occurs when “the pelvic floor muscles have stretched. Physical activity puts pressure on the bladder. Then the bladder leaks.”

Stress incontinence during workouts can affect both sexes, but is notably more common among women, in part, because many cases are related to the effects of childbirth, especially multiple vaginal births. Other potential causes include obesity, a chronic cough, and having had a hysterectomy or prostate surgery. Some medications, including certain diuretics, muscle relaxants and sedatives, also can be a factor. Smoking may contribute to the problem to the extent that it promotes coughing. In general, the risk of this condition increases with age.

Stress incontinence is the most common form of urinary incontinence and, despite its inconvenience and potential for embarrassment, usually does not signify a dangerous problem. In addition to during workouts, leakage may occur when coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects, or even during sex.

To reduce the incidence of stress incontinence while working out, consider forms of exercise that have a relatively gentle impact on the pelvic region. Avoid sit ups and crunches, for example, and if possible, even running. Focus instead on yoga, swimming and bicycling. Weight training can be especially hard on the pelvic area because of the need to hold your breath. Women working out with weights might wish to consult a physical therapist or personal trainer who specializes in women’s health and pelvic floor muscles. Of course, be sure to use a bathroom immediately prior to working out. Do not avoid fluid intake, since that could result in dehydration and urine with a high waste concentration. But do shun caffeinated beverages and other substances that can stimulate the bladder, such as citrus fruits and juices.

Perhaps most important to note, however: stress incontinence is a condition that usually can be well managed and sometimes even cured.

Salk, Inc., America’s leader in reusable incontinence protection, offers protective pads, men’s briefs, women’s panties and more that keep you comfortable and provide state-of-the-art moisture and odor control, even during the most rugged exercises.

If you are experiencing stress incontinence during workouts or at any other time, do not allow embarrassment to prevent you from consulting your doctor or urologist. Understand that healthcare professionals see this problem all the time. For starters, you want to rule out the possibility, however small, that your stress incontinence is related to a more serious condition. With that accomplished, your doctor can help you minimize or eliminate your stress incontinence problem.

For example, he or she may recommend pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, to strengthen the pelvic muscles. Often this is sufficient to alleviate leakage. The Mayo Clinic provides detailed guides on performing Kegels for women and for men.

Another approach to dealing with stress incontinence is bladder training, which is a way of gradually increasing the length of time between needed trips to the bathroom to urinate. Bladder training does not strengthen the pelvic muscles, but can be useful by imposing a form of “discipline” on the bladder with regard to the need to expel urine. As the Harvard Medical School explains, sometimes we teach our bladders “bad habits”: “For example, if you routinely urinate before your bladder is full, it learns to signal the need to go when less volume is present.” Step-by-step bladder training guides are available to aid individuals through this process.

The bottom line: stress incontinence during workouts, or at any other time, should be no cause for embarrassment or despair. Much can be done to protect yourself from wetness and odor, and to lessen, or perhaps even totally eradicate, this condition.