Tips for Active Living with Incontinence
We all know that living an active lifestyle is good for your health and sense of wellbeing. But how can you be active if you always have to be on the lookout for a bathroom? Or if the activity itself makes your bladder leaks worse?
Of course it’s important to get regular vigorous exercise. You already know that your body wasn’t meant to be sedentary. It’s meant to move! But what you might not know is that physical activity can actually improve your incontinence.
So just how much physical activity should you be getting? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need both aerobic and strengthening activities. Your weekly routine should include at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups.
When you’re worried about bladder leaks, it’s easy to avoid going to the gym or even taking a walk through your neighborhood. The downside of that approach? If you avoid exercise and other physical activities, you can end up suffering from obesity and lack of muscle tone, which can make your incontinence worse.
So what can you do to stay active?
Watch what you drink. Caffeine, found in both coffee and energy drinks, is a diuretic that can cause bladder irritation. Consider avoiding those types of beverages on workout days, if you find they cause bladder leaks.
Go before you go, then go again. Some people find that using the bathroom a half hour before they leave the house, then again right before they walk out the door helps them fully empty their bladder, so they don’t have to visit the restroom in the middle of their workout.
Strengthen your pelvic floor. Kegel exercises help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Both women and men benefit from doing this exercise and you can order pelvic muscle exercise kits – in specific versions for each gender - from the National Association for Continence. Call 1-800-BLADDER or visit www.nafc.org to order.
Consider the available tools. Women may find a pessary to be helpful in reducing leaks. The device, inserted vaginally like a tampon so that it puts pressure on the urethra, can help with urge and stress incontinence in women. For men, a condom catheter (a sheath with a drainage tube that collects urine) or a penile clamp (a v-shaped device with a foam cushion that stops the flow of urine) may be good options to try. A healthcare provider can help you determine if these devices can work for you.
Wear the right protection. Finding an absorbent product that meets your needs for fit, absorbency and comfort is critical to staying active. Not sure which product is right for you? Try the DEPEND® Product Selector.
Be prepared. Having supplies you need on hand – like extra absorbent products, cleansing towelettes, powder or skin cream, an extra pair of pants and a sealable plastic disposal bag – will increase your confidence. You may also wish to consider using one of the available “find a bathroom” websites or apps to help you plan your stops along the way.
Eat right before you go. Paying attention to what you eat – and avoiding foods that exacerbate your condition – not only helps you feel more energetic, it may actually decrease incontinence. Talk to your doctor about possible changes that could be made to your diet. You can also check out this article – 10 Things That Can Make Incontinence Worse – for a list of food and drinks that can aggravate your bladder.
Keep a diary. Keeping a food and beverage diary, noting how you felt and the degree of bladder leaks you experienced, can help you figure out what to avoid on days when you’re planning to be physically active. There’s a great example of an incontinence diary here: Using a Bladder Diary for Incontinence.
While living an active healthy lifestyle with incontinence takes some effort, along with resourcefulness and creativity, maintaining your good health and increasing your energy levels make it well worth the effort.