Lori Forner, physiotherapist and Always Discreet ambassador, explains what we know about incontinence and high-impact exercise.
Physical activity described as “high impact” involves exercises like running and jumping, when both feet are repeatedly off the ground at the same time before landing (the impact). High impact activity increases the forces on the body. It’s great for both bone and heart health but has also been linked to pelvic floor problems.
What if you only experience leakage during exercise?
We don’t know exactly why this activity is causing problems in some females, even when bladder and bowel health in their day-to-day life may be completely fine. It could be that the pelvic floor muscles aren’t supportive enough during the landing phase, the muscles get too tired, or the other tissues supporting the bladder and other pelvic organs (ligaments and fascia) are too lax.
Bladder or bowel leakage (incontinence) during sport or exercise is never normal and is not a sign you are working hard enough! Continually ignoring and pushing through leakage will most likely make this worse over time.
Who can help? What does treatment involve? Physiotherapists trained in pelvic floor dysfunction can assess why you are leaking. They can also work out if you need pelvic floor muscle training, or a vaginal device like a pessary which supports your pelvic organs or helps with continence. Help might involve modifying your training program and seeing how well you are moving. For example, are you breathing? Do you need to strengthen other muscles in the body? Do you need to stretch?
If you are experiencing bladder leakage during high-impact exercise, there may be simple changes to help. These could be changing your stride length in running or finding a breath pattern such as breathing out two steps, in two steps, etc. It’s best to see a professional to guide you because every person is individual and there are so many reasons this may be happening.
This story was first published in Bridge Magazine. Subscribe and receive Bridge straight to your inbox.