The NHS estimates that up to six million people in the UK suffer from urinary incontinence. If you are one of them, it will almost certainly affect your exercise routines and, worse, add stress to your daily life. You are not alone – in fact, most of us at some stage in their lives admit to having leaks from time to time. But you certainly are not powerless to solve the problem – it’s time to take control of your bladder…

Simon Woodhams, Consultant Urological Surgeon and avid cyclist, surfer and windsurfer knows how important it is to feel comfortable when you exercise. ‘As urinary incontinence can happen suddenly it can be difficult for the people affected to lead an active lifestyle. Some activities make the problem worse while others, by their very nature, take participants beyond easy reach of a toilet. This can result in people withdrawing from social situations. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to be the case.’

Simon’s top tips:

  • Running does not cause stress incontinence but it can reveal it. Running hard, running downhill and sprinting all increase the pressure on the bladder, which may cause some leaking.
  • Empty your bladder just before you set out. Try Double Voiding- when you urinate, stay on the toilet until you feel your bladder is empty. Then, stand up and sit down again, lean forward slightly at the knees, and try again.
  • If you are running or cycling a long distance, factor in a toilet stop, as a full bladder leaks more and you will need to drink fluids when you’re running for a long time.
  • Use a thin sanitary towel or incontinence pad.
  • To minimise leaks, try squeezing your pelvic floor muscles when you run (don’t become frustrated if you can’t because it is hard to do).
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol-these are diuretics and can irritate the bladder before exercising.

‘Regular exercise is very important and can actually improve symptoms but choose activities that don’t exert great pressure on the abdominal cavity and pelvic floor. Walking, swimming, dancing and cycling are ideal. Yoga can have multiple benefits. As well as helping to reduce anxiety, it focuses on posture and includes exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.’

Mr Simon Woodhams is Consultant Urological Surgeon for Western Sussex Hospital Foundation Trust, based at Worthing Hospital and privately at Goring Hall Hospital.

 

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