The Athletic Pelvic Floor

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Despite urinary incontinence being a prevalent issue in the community (13% of Australian men and up to 37% of Australian women), it is not often discussed or treated. Although leaking a small amount of urine during exercise may be common, it is not normal. Through specific pelvic floor muscle training and developing a pelvic floor safe exercise program, you can return to your training without the worry of leakage.

Role of the Pelvic Floor:

The pelvic floor muscles are not only important when it comes to continence but also have a role in providing upward support of the pelvic and abdominal organs and skeletal reinforcement.

The Effects of Exercise on the Pelvic Floor

During exercise, especially at high intensities, a downward pressure is placed on the pelvic floor due to the up-and-down displacement of the abdominal and pelvic contents and changes in intra-abdominal pressure. If the pelvic floor is unable to produce enough upward force to counteract the pressure, it allows urine to leak from the bladder.

Exercising with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

There are many ways to maintain cardiovascular health and aerobic fitness without placing excessive strain on the pelvic floor. However, experiencing symptoms of stress urinary incontinence does not mean you have to stop participating in the physical activity you enjoy. Different types of exercise place different demands on the pelvic floor. Forms of exercise such as walking, swimming and cycling are on the lower end of the pelvic floor demand. In the middle we have activities such as pilates, light to moderate resistance training and lower impact sports. Sports and exercises such as weightlifting, running and skipping place higher demands on the pelvic floor.

Lower Demand

Walking
Swimming
Cycling
Low impact aerobics or aqua-robics

Higher Demand

Weight lifting
Running
Gymnastics & Trampolining
Stop-start sports (eg. netball, tennis, hockey)

A physiotherapist can help you strengthen your pelvic floor with a specific and individualised pelvic floor muscle training program to help manage and reduce symptoms associated with stress urinary incontinence while you stay engaged in physical activity and sport.

Ready to get back to doing what you love? Book a Women’s Health Physiotherapy Assessment with Jenny Oakley or Fiona Pringle to get started on your pelvic floor training journey.

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