Yes, You Can (and Should!) Exercise with Incontinence

The more you know about incontinence, the more successfully you can manage it.

Let’s just get it out in the open—there’s nothing fun about incontinence. Difficulty controlling your bladder is a challenge, and in some cases a burden. But here’s the thing—incontinence does not mean you’re permanently benched! In fact, physical activity is one of the best things people with incontinence can do for themselves.

Whether you exercise because you love that sweaty runner’s high, or because you know it will improve your overall health, rest assured that with the right products and preparation, you can run, walk, swim, cycle, or rock a downward-facing dog in dry comfort.

senior woman exercising
Let’s take a quick overview of some incontinence basics, then turn our focus to exercise.

You Are Not Alone

According to the National Association for Continence, more than 25 million Americans experience incontinence, and too many suffer in silence for years before seeking help. That’s because some people may feel embarrassed even to tell their doctor they are experiencing incontinence. Or they may think incontinence is a natural part of aging (it’s not!) and that there’s nothing they can do about those annoying and untimely leaks. Sometimes people fear that the only way to get their life back is through an invasive procedure, like surgery (again, it’s not).

senior woman upset

There are two primary types of incontinence. Stress incontinence occurs when pressure or stress on the bladder causes you to leak. It can happen when you laugh, pee, or exercise. It’s caused by a weakening of the muscles that control the bladder and can be due to obesity, childbirth, prostate surgery, and other causes. Overactive bladder is characterized by a sudden, intense need to pee, often several times at night, followed by a release of urine that you can’t control.

Incontinence can also be a sign of something else, for example a neurological condition like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, an enlarged prostate in men, or hormonal changes in women. That’s why it is important to speak to your healthcare professionals when you start to experience incontinence issues.

Muscles You Never Knew You Had

Kegels—pronounced KEY-gulls—are a type of exercise that strengthen the pelvic floor, the muscles that support the bladder, and nearby organs. So basically, they tighten the muscles that control the flow of urine. Although there are variations for men and women, the basic Kegel is easy and is done like this: (Note: If you’ve just given birth or had surgery, be sure to ask your doctor if it’s OK to do Kegels right now.)

  • Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and visualize the muscles of the pelvic floor.
  • Tighten and hold for several seconds; it will feel like the muscles are rising.
  • Release and rest a few seconds.
  • Repeat up to 10 times.

Yes, You Can (Exercise and Get Strong) With Incontinence!

Whether you live to exercise or exercise to live, movement is essential for good health.

Ideally, your exercise routine should include a variety of moves that accomplish four things.

weights

Build strength by using free weights, weight machines, or body weight

Icon of body builder

Control weight by building muscle

cycling

Increase endurance by brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling

Icon of woman doing Yoga

Improve balance and flexibility

If you’re challenged with incontinence, you might consider choosing low-impact activities that can build muscle or endurance levels without putting a lot of pressure on the bladder, such as swimming, yoga, walking, and Pilates.
incontinence and yoga

If you use gym equipment, choose machines like the treadmill or elliptical that don’t put pressure on the pelvis. And try to avoid lifting heavy weights or doing body-weight exercises like jumping jacks, that bounce or push on your pelvis. Although squats can sometimes contribute to a leak, they can actually help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles so you might consider doing these with the right protection in place.

Some people like to keep a bladder diary that logs what they eat and drink, as well as the types of physical activity they try. That way they can analyze the impact of all their daily activities on their continence. For more about the benefits of exercise on your health, read Two Tips for Health: Start Moving and Keep Moving!

A Few Tips for Exercising with Incontinence

Here are some helpful tips to keep you dry and in control while exercising:
Avoid a big meal before your workout, as food puts pressure on your bladder and pelvic muscles.

  • Empty your bladder before you start to exercise.
  • Limit fluid intake but be sure to stay hydrated while you’re working out.
  • Wear black pants in fabrics that wick away moisture.
  • Use protective pads, underwear, or other protection as needed to absorb any leakage. Heads up ladies—incontinence pads are different from menstrual products because they do not get soggy when wet. Be patient with products. It may take a couple tries before you find the ones that work best for you.
Icon of a woman walking with headphones on

“Incontinence does not mean you’re permanently benched! In fact, physical activity is one of the best things people with incontinence can do for themselves.”

Consume with care

The saying that “80% of the results in the gym take place in the kitchen” also applies to bathroom accidents. When and what you drink can have a big impact on your continence and comfort.

Let’s talk water. You might think drinking less means less chance of an accident, right? In fact, limiting fluids can actually make incontinence worse. Here’s why. Less liquid means more concentrated (darker yellow) urine, which irritates the bladder, and causes you to have to pee more! Also, reducing fluid intake can encourage the growth of bacteria, which triggers incontinence. The big takeaway? Drink up—6-8 eight-ounce glasses of fluid per day is recommended, unless your doctor says otherwise.

One caveat to drinking more is that you’ll want to go easy on caffeine-containing beverages like coffee, tea, and soda because caffeine is known to increase bladder activity. Alcohol and artificial sweeteners can be a problem, too, as well as milk, tomatoes, citrus, chocolate, and spicy foods that can irritate the bladder.

water bottle and glass
water

“You might think that drinking less means less chance of an accident. In fact, limiting fluids can actually make incontinence worse.”

HCD Wants to Help Keep you Active and Dry

With some changes in habits and the right products, many people manage incontinence quite well on their own. But if you feel like leaks and accidents are more than you can handle, and are making it impossible to stay active, make an appointment with a member of your healthcare team. There are a variety of treatments out there, but it can take some work to identify what works best for you.

Meanwhile, the Home Care Delivered customer service experts are ready to discuss incontinence products and assist with your order at 866-904-0815 or you can enroll online through our Online Enrollment secure website. At HCD, we’re all about practical solutions and peace of mind, like delivering insurance-covered products right to your door in discreet packaging.

Our customer care representatives are specially trained to understand how incontinence products work, and how to match the right product to each customer’s needs. And if the product we send doesn’t supply the protection you need, we’ll work with you to find a product that does give you the comfort and security you need to be confident as you live your life.

Enter your phone number on the bottom left of the screen and one of our team members will give you a call. Or feel free to call us directly and enroll today. We know incontinence is challenging and we’re here to help.

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