Why do I Leak Urine When I Exercise?

Urinary incontinence can be experienced in about 30% of exercising women according to a report from the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 20141. The researchers also noted that high impact activities have been associated with higher incidence of urinary incontinence. This was found in non-pregnant, pregnant, and postpartum women. High impact activities can increase intra-abdominal pressure, which include jumping, running, dancing, and even heavy lifting. With increased intra-abdominal pressure, there is increased pressure exerted onto the bladder. In response, the pelvic floor muscles will contract in order to support the bladder.

In cases where the pelvic floor muscles are weakened, a woman may experience urinary incontinence because the muscles are not able to contract to counteract the forces exerted onto the bladder from the increased intra-abdominal pressure. A woman may have strong pelvic floor muscles; however, may still experience urinary incontinence. This may be associated with uncoordinated muscle contractions in which the pelvic floor muscles may not contract quickly enough to counteract the pressure forces.

You may be able to decrease your leakage by following these tips:

  • Drinking caffeinated or juice drinks or eating spicy foods prior to exercise can increase leakage. Caffeine, spicy foods, and acids such as found in fruit juice can irritate your bladder.
  • Stay hydrated with water and empty your bladder prior to your exercise session.
  • Wear a tampon or sea pearl sponge. These items put pressure on the urethra and may help decrease leaking. If the tampon or sea pearl sponge works well for you, talk to your physician about obtaining a pessary.
  • Increase the grade when walking or running on the treadmill. Leaning slightly forward with your trunk may help decrease your leakage.
  • Until you can get leakage under control wear a pad to contain the leaks or black pants to disguise the leaks.
  • Be sure to exhale during the most difficult part of the exercise. Breath holding increases the pressure on the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Start with lighter weights and slower movement and work on strengthening your muscles and improving the timing and coordination of your kegel with your breathing and exertion before moving onto more difficult activities.

Performing kegel exercises can increase your pelvic floor muscle strength if weak muscles are your problem. You may use your Kehel as part of your exercise program. Follow the instructions of our article to to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles:

To improve your timing and coordination of your pelvic floor muscles follow the instructions in this link:  https://us.joyontoys.com/en/quick-flicks-pelvic-floor-muscles/

To improve your timing and coordination you can try to exhale and perform a kegel when exercising. For example, when rising from a squat, exhale and perform a kegel as you return to standing.

Don’t let leakage stop you from exercising. If you have pain or continue to have problems, see your pelvic health therapist or your physician.

Lola Rosenbaum

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Elizabeth Bell

Clinical Specialist in Women’s Health

  1. Goldstick, O. and Constantini, N. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2014; 48:296-298.

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