Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Enjoy Exercise Despite Stress Incontinence

Tips for Exercising When You Have a Weak Bladder
Photo of family restroom sign by member at Wikimedia Commons
 Losing control of one's bladder can happen to anyone at any age. Many people avoid group settings if they experience incontinence. Just the thought of bouncing around in an aerobics class may make someone with involuntary bladder control issues shudder. God forbid if it makes the person laugh. Stress incontinence is no laughing matter for the many people who suffer from this common condition.

Can People With Stress Incontinence Still Exercise?

Before beginning or changing any type of exercise program, a person should consult with a healthcare provider because he or she should be aware of one's own special health needs and limitations. Incontinence is not a normal change of aging, although older age is a risk factor for developing urinary incontinence. Many people, even some group exercise instructors, experience stress incontinence to some extent at some point.

Many people who experience incontinence of urine fail to share that information with their healthcare provider. They may suffer in silence for years when some simple and inexpensive exercises might help the problem. Some people might be able to take a medication for just a few weeks and incontinence, even if the person has suffered from it for years, may completely clear up or significantly improve. Those who are pleasantly surprised with the results only wish they had addressed the issue much sooner! Others may need surgery and afterwards enjoy a whole new world free of stress incontinence.

There is hope for those with loss of bladder control, but an important first step is to share the information with a doctor for further evaluation. Stress incontinence can have many different causes and the most effective treatment will often depend on the cause.

Simple and Inexpensive Ways to Curb Stress Incontinence

According to a U.S. Library of Medicine's August 30, 2009 article entitled "Stress Incontinence," a few modifiable activities may help decrease stress incontinence include:
  • Continue to drink normal amounts of water - some people assume that drinking less water will help, but the bladder size may begin to shrink and will therefore hold less liquid if you do this.
  • Prevent or decrease constipation by eating plenty of dietary fiber.
  • Stop smoking - this may decrease coughing episodes and lead to a less irritated bladder.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, carbonated beverages, citrus foods and drinks, and spicy foods.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Maintain proper blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. 
Tips for Combating Stress Incontinence
Practical Tips for Taking an Exercise Class When You Have Stress Incontinence

Many people assume that everyone is looking right at them when taking an aerobics class. That is usually not the case. The instructor is usually scanning participants for signs of extreme fatigue or safety issues, but they certainly aren't looking for signs of stress incontinence.

Here are a few practical tips for exercising despite having urinary incontinence:
  • Try walking - this might be done alone or with others in a wide variety of settings.
  • Look for exercise videos that you can do at home if appropriate for your fitness level and fit your needs.
  • Consider taking classes that are shorter (30 or 45 minute classes might work better than longer ones).
  • Look for classes that are low impact or offer levels without high impact bouncing.
  • Consider classes that allow participants to sit for all or part of class (examples might include SilverSneakers classes, stationary bike classes, etc.)
  • Try a few mind/body classes such as a beginner's yoga or chair yoga with a focus on breathing, balance, and relaxation exercises. These classes often have dimmed lighting that may help people to feel less intimidated.
  • Water exercise classes and swimming may be great alternatives to land classes.
  • Empty your bladder just before class starts.
  • Give yourself permission to leave the class if needed to empty your bladder.
  • Decrease weights and/or repititions on exercises that cause stress on the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Avoid or modify exercises that you know will cause leakage.
  • Consider wearing clothing protection with a change after class.
Enjoying Life Despite Stress Incontinence - Find Practical Tips ©Katrena
 High impact exercises like hopping, jogging, jumping jacks, jumping rope, etc. can all be modified so that one foot is on the ground at all times. Feel free to speak with a group exercise instructor before class and ask if they can demonstrate low impact activities if they plan to have high impact moves. Most instructors will readily have great alternatives to any high impact move offered in a class.

Yes, there is life despite stress incontinence, and avoiding regular physical exercise often leads to weight gain higher blood sugar levels, and constipation, which in turn can make involuntary bladder loss of control worse. Stress incontinence is a vicious cycle that may be stopped or improved with a visit to a healthcare provider, utilizing preventive tips, and by using a few practical steps when exercising.


  1. There's a new treatment for stress incontinence to cause stem cells to generate new healthy tissue. The procedure is called o-shot which has been very effective with my patients.
    More can be seen at OShot.info
    Hope this helps.
    Charles Runels, MD

    1. Thanks for your input, Dr. Runels!

  2. Very interesting article. I am surprised I didn't see anything about kegel exercises in there.

    Not to do with the article, but rather this site...there is a pop out box on the right side of the screen that makes scrolling through the article almost impossible!!

    1. I agree that kegel exercises can help many people with stress incontinence.

      I also agree that the pop out box on the right side of the screen is annoying and prevents some people from being able to see entire articles.

      Thanks for mentioning both of those issues and thank you very much for reading my article.


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