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Fit Women Are At Higher Risk Of Stress Incontinence - But Help Is Available

Aug 17, 2007
It's a fact that women who play sport or exercise are more likely to suffer from stress incontinence than other women. Research has shown that 80% of elite trampolinists suffer from this problem, and at least 30% of women over 45 admit that it happens to them during physical activity. If you engage in any activity that increases abdominal pressure, such as jumping, jogging and skipping, it is quite likely that you will experience the small leaks of urine known as "stress incontinence".

Because physically active women are more likely to be engaged in these high-impact activities, they are more likely to experience these leaks, and they need stronger pelvic floor muscles than the average woman to withstand the effects of their exercise programs.

Women are frequently tempted to give up jogging, and similar activities, in order to avoid these embarrassing leaks. But the problem with simply avoiding high impact activities is that avoidance doesn't fix the underlying problem that is causing the urine leakage. Over time, leaks can become more frequent and occur even during low impact activities.

Fortunately there is an answer. For the great majority of women, stress incontinence responds extremely well to pelvic floor exercises. Building pelvic floor muscle strength has been identified as a successful approach by countless researchers, and is recommended internationally as the first line of therapy. If you are already an active woman with a lifestyle that includes regular exercise, it's just a question of incorporating some additional exercises into your existing program.

If your pelvic floor muscles are already badly weakened, you may need the advice of a health professional before embarking on a pelvic floor exercise program. But if you only experience occasional leaks, you may prefer to try a simple exercise regime for yourself initially. You may also find that easy-to-use and affordable exercise aids can help you to develop correct exercise technique, and provide feedback on your increasing muscle strength. Exercise aids are also useful if you are one of the 50% of women who find pelvic floor exercises too difficult to do from verbal or written instructions.

Start exercising your pelvic floor muscles by trying two simple exercises.

Firstly, tighten the muscles around your back passage, vagina and front passage and lift up inside as if trying to stop passing wind and urine at the same time. It is very easy to bring other, irrelevant muscles into play, so try to isolate your pelvic floor muscles as much as possible by not pulling in your tummy, not squeezing your legs together, not tightening your buttocks and not holding your breath.

The effort should be coming from the pelvic floor muscles themselves.

Hold the contraction for as long as you can, building up to a maximum of 10 seconds. Rest for 4 seconds and then repeat the contraction as many times as you can up to a maximum of 10 contractions.

Try to do these exercises in a slow and controlled way with a rest of 4 seconds between each muscle contraction. Practise your maximum number of held contractions (up to 10) about six times each day.

The second exercise uses the same muscles but works them quickly to help them react to sudden stresses. Practise some quick contractions, drawing in the pelvic floor and holding for just one second before releasing the muscles. Do these steadily, aiming for a strong muscle tightening with each contraction up to a maximum of 10 times.

Try to do one set of slow contractions, followed by one set of quick contractions, six times each day.

Do these exercises regularly and you will see results within 3 to 6 months, but you should continue them for life to keep your pelvic floor muscles as fit as possible.
About the Author
Linda McClelland is the founder of Pelvic Floor Exercise, providing information, links and products to help women and men worldwide improve their pelvic floor fitness. More information about pelvic floor strengthening for active women can be found on her web page www.pelvicfloorexercise.com.au/fitness.htm.
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