Incontinence is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It can significantly impact the quality of life, causing embarrassment, anxiety, and social isolation. However, finding ways to control and treat it helps to reduce these feelings. This article will explore the connection between exercise and incontinence, including the best exercises to improve bladder control and which ones you should avoid. No matter your interest, we have practical advice for incorporating exercise into your routine.

Does Exercise Help Incontinence?

Certain exercises, like pelvic floor exercises, help relieve incontinence symptoms. By choosing core strengthening exercises rather than high-impact activities that pressure the bladder and surrounding muscles, you can strengthen the right muscles and reduce the chance of urine leakages.

Can Incontinence Be Reversed With Exercise?

There are several treatments for incontinence, and what works for one may not work for another. However, doctors usually recommend pelvic floor exercises to help manage incontinence symptoms. Pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and bowel. When you work on targeting and strengthening these muscles with pelvic floor exercises, it can help to reduce leakages and control your symptoms. So, although exercise may not completely reverse incontinence, it is a vital part of any treatment programme.

The Best Incontinence Exercises

Having incontinence is enough to put people off exercise, but choosing the right activities will help control your symptoms and make you feel better about yourself. Here are some of the best incontinence exercises to help you take back control:

  • Pelvic Floor Exercises — Also known as Kegel exercises. These activities work to strengthen the muscles that support the bladder and urethra. To perform basic pelvic floor exercises, you should first locate the muscles by trying to stop the flow of urine midstream. Once you have identified them, you can complete the exercises anywhere. To start, contract the muscles and hold for 3-5 seconds, then relax for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 10-15 times in a row, and aim to work up to three sets of 10-15 repetitions daily.
  • Pilates — These movements strengthen the core muscles and pelvic floor. To perform pilates exercises, start with simple movements and progress as your strength increases. For example, you can begin with pelvic tilts, which involve lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then, slowly tilt your pelvis upward and hold for a few seconds before releasing. Repeat this 10-15 times and gradually advance to more advanced movements.
  • Yoga — Certain yoga poses help improve bladder control and reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. One yoga pose that benefits those with incontinence is the Bound Angle Pose. To perform this pose, sit on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. Next, hold your feet and gently press your knees toward the floor, keeping your back straight. Hold for 30-60 seconds, and repeat several times.
  • Bridge Hold — Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Then, slowly lift your hips upward, keeping your feet and shoulders on the ground. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower your hips to the ground. Repeat 10-15 times. For an added challenge, try holding the position for longer periods.
  • Squats – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward. Slowly bend your knees and lower your hips, keeping your back straight and your weight in your heels. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground, then slowly rise back to a standing position. You can repeat this exercise 10-15 times.

How To Stop Urine Leakage During Exercise

Unfortunately, exercises and working to strengthen your pelvic floor can lead to leakages at first. This is natural; your body needs time to adjust and get used to the new movements. However, it can be enough to put you off doing any exercise to help control your symptoms. Here are some ways to reduce and prevent urine leakage during exercise so you can manage your symptoms better:

  • Use incontinence protection, such as incontinence pads
  • Limit the amount of caffeinated beverages you drink before you workout
  • Avoid bladder irritant foods before your workout, such as spicy or acidic foods
  • Use the bathroom before you start exercising
  • Wear dark-coloured, loose-fitting clothing to hide urine leakage if desired

Can Exercise Cause Urinary Incontinence?

Although some exercises are incredibly beneficial for urinary incontinence, others can have the opposite effect. Certain exercises can contribute to urinary incontinence. For example, high-impact activities such as running, jumping, or heavy weightlifting place pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and the bladder, often leading to incontinence.

What Are The Worst Exercises For Incontinence?

As we mentioned, certain exercises can lead to or worsen urinary incontinence. So, avoiding these exercises is vital to strengthening your core and pelvic floor. Some of the worst exercises for incontinence include:

  • Weightlifting
  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Double leg lifts
  • High-impact exercises

You should avoid these exercises for the first few months of training your pelvic floor. Then, once you have strengthened these muscles, you can slowly start to work these exercises back into your routine.

Can A Lack of Exercise Cause Urinary Incontinence?

On the other hand, not doing exercise at all can be just as detrimental. For example, sitting all day and remaining sedentary can affect your urinary tract, leading to or worsening urinary incontinence in the long run. Additionally, regular exercise helps maintain muscle tone and strength, including the muscles of the pelvic floor, which play an important role in bladder control. When these muscles weaken, they are less effective at supporting the bladder and controlling urine flow, leading to urinary incontinence.

So, How Often Should You Exercise With Urinary Incontinence?

Generally, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. However, with incontinence, this vigorous routine can cause unwanted side effects. It’s best to start with just 10-15 minutes worth of daily exercises — you can partake in any exercises we described earlier or go on a brisk walk. Then, once you have built up strength and endurance, you can slowly start exercising for longer.