Learn about pelvic floor health and strengthening exercises.
It’s World Continence Week and this year’s theme is Improve your bottom line. We explain the common symptoms of a weakened pelvic floor and advise how you can strengthen yours.
The pelvic floor is the group of muscles that support the bladder, bowel and the uterus. These muscles make up part of your ‘core’.
A weakened pelvic floor is a common complaint for many women and men and, while not necessarily harmful to health, it can lead to disruptive and embarrassing situations. Weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to loss of bladder control, bowel incontinence, sexual difficulties and, in extreme cases, prolapse.
Common symptoms of a weakened pelvic floor include:
- leaking urine during exercise, coughing, laughing or sneezing
- needing the toilet often or being unable to make it in time
- having trouble emptying the bladder or bowel
- accidentally passing wind or losing control of the bladder or bowel
- experiencing pressure or pain in the pelvic area
- experiencing pain during sex.
Those most affected by pelvic floor problems include:
- women experiencing or who have experienced menopause
- women who are pregnant or who have just given birth
- women who have had gynaecological surgery
- men who have had surgery for prostate cancer
- people with a history of back pain
- people who have experienced injury to the pelvic region
- people who are overweight and obese
- people who do high-impact sport or load-bearing exercise, such as running and gymnastics, boxing or weight-training.
How can you strengthen a weak pelvic floor?
There are a number of light, low-impact activities you can do to help to strengthen your pelvic core muscles. These exercises include:
- seated cycling
- water aerobics
The Royal Women’s Hospital website has some useful suggestions for exercises as well.
Small changes to the way you exercise can also make a difference, such as:
- seat yourself while using lighter hand weights
- reduce the depth of your squats and lunges
- keep your legs closer together and maintain a relaxed, upright posture when you exercise.
These lifestyle changes that can also be made:
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