On the Go with Incontinence
By Teri Brown
We all know that living an active lifestyle is good for our health and our sense of well-being. So how can you be active if that very activity increases incontinence or takes you away from a bathroom?
Experts believe that not only can a person with incontinence be active, but it’s important that they do so. So just how much physical activity should you be getting? Considering that a 2006 NHIS report showed that nearly 50% of men age 65+ were classified as “inactive,” any amount is better than none! The Center for Disease Control (CDC) publishes guidelines for all ages and provides many resources to help you be active. Generally the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, plus a couple of days of strength training. For more information on these guidelines and resources, go to
Both urge incontinence (incontinence caused by an overactive bladder) and stress incontinence (incontinence caused by activity such as coughing or laughing) can make it difficult to be active. Many people who suffer from incontinence avoid exercise and other physical activities, which can lead to obesity and a lack of muscle tone. This can actually make incontinence worse.
- Reduce and eliminate: People have many coping mechanisms that allow them to be more active, such as restricting fluids or urinating right before going out. For some people, reducing caffeine intake can help decrease incontinence enough to make being active more comfortable.
- Flex your muscles: Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles by … walking and doing Kegel exercises can also help. Believe it or not, even men can benefit from doing this simple exercise. You can order the National Association of Continence’s pelvic muscle exercise kit for men with an instructional recording and printed manual by calling 1-800- BLADDER or visiting www.nafc.org to order. Men can also consider the intermittent use of a condom catheter (a rubber latex sheath with a drainage tube attached to the tip that is worn on the penis to collect urine) or a penile clamp (a v-shaped casing with a foam cushion that fits over the penis, and when closed, stops the flow of urine). Consult a healthcare provider to find out more about these and other options.
- Find a good fit: Men should find an absorbent product that fits well and meets their needs for absorbency and comfort. Not sure which product is right for you? Try the DEPEND® Product Selector.
- Planning ahead: If you plan on hiking, a “fanny” pack or backpack with a couple of extra absorbent products can increase confidence. Know where the bathrooms are ahead of time, and be prepared in case of an accident.
Dr. Joanne P. Robinson, associate professor for the Rutgers University College of Nursing, believes being informed is the first step in living an active life with incontinence. “Get informed and get help,” says Dr. Robinson. “You shouldn’t try to manage incontinence without the help of an expert because you might be missing out on treatments that could really improve your life and allow you to become as active as you want to be. Even if you just want to manage the incontinence with absorbent products there are so many products to choose from these days that you are cheating yourself if you don’t get help from an expert to choose the product that is right for you.”
Who is that expert? The National Association for Continence (NAFC) recommends beginning with your family physician or primary care doctor. However, you may also want to contact a urologist (surgeon specializing in urinary conditions) a geriatrician (specializing in treating older people) or a gastroenterologist (specializing in the problems of the intestinal system).
The following tips can help you lead a more active and healthy lifestyle:
- The right absorbent product can make a world of difference to leading a confident active life. Ask your healthcare provider for recommendations, and visit DEPEND® Men’s Products for specific solutions geared toward men.
- Remember to eat healthy. A balanced diet not only helps you feel more energetic and active, but it may actually decrease incontinence. Talk to your doctor about possible changes that could be made to your diet, for some suggestions.
- Keep an incontinence diary. This will help you pinpoint which activities increase incontinence and which ones are manageable. It will also help you discover which foods increase incontinence so you can cut back on them on the days you are planning a physical activity.
Living an active healthy lifestyle with incontinence is possible. It takes resourcefulness and creativity, but the results to your health and energy levels are worth the effort.