Women should do pelvic floor exercises to prevent leaks 'from as young as 18'
Two-thirds of women in the UK experience bladder leaks, but not enough women are doing the simple exercises that could help to prevent them.
New research, conducted by Always Discreet, has found that although 85% of women know that exercising their pelvic floor muscles can help prevent or improve leaks, just over a third (34%) say they still don’t do them.
You might think that bladder leaks are only a concern for older women, but actually 64% of women aged 18-24 have experienced leaks. And it’s this younger generation who are neglecting their pelvic floor exercises the most.
51% of this age group admitted to having never exercised these particular muscles, even though the majority understand the benefit and deem general exercise to play an important part in their life.
And, interestingly, 54% of people wrongly believe that being fit and healthy means that you won’t experience leaks – 67% think the same of having a strong core. But, in many cases, high-intensity workouts and over-exertion can actually contribute to leaks.
‘I first noticed I was experiencing bladder leaks when I was working out,’ says TOWIE star and bladder leaks sufferer Fearne Mccann.
‘I think of myself as being in my prime, so it came as a shock when I had to avoid cardio exercise due to leaks. At times, I was even worried to leave the house.
‘I think many women think they are taking good care of themselves but still don’t prioritise pelvic floor exercises, as part of their daily routine. I know first-hand, how a few squeezes a day can have a huge impact.’
Experts say that finding the time to do pelvic floor exercises is a must for women of all ages, but only 8% remember to do their pelvic floor exercises every day.
‘Bladder leaks are common in women of all ages, it doesn’t mean they should accept it as normal, and many do not realise that there are often simple things that can be done to help their situation,’ says Dr Anita Mitra.
‘Talking to a GP or nurse is the first step, even if just to put your mind at ease.
They will be able to talk you through a treatment plan which doesn’t necessarily mean medication or surgery, and many can improve their symptoms with regular pelvic floor exercises alone.’
To make it easier for women to get professional advice, Always Discreet is donating to Bladder Health UK, the largest support charity dedicated to bladder health.
This donation will help fund a confidential advice line, offering insight from an expert such as a Continence or UroGynae Nurse, or an ‘expert patient’ who can talk first-hand about the issue from 20 years of experience.
Exercises to improve your pelvic floor
The pelvic floor muscles hold all your important pelvic organs in place; including the bladder, uterus and rectum. If these muscles are weak, you’re more likely to suffer from bladder incontinence, prolapse and it can even impact your sex life.
We asked intimate health expert and Managing Director of Kegel8, Stephanie Taylor for her tips on how to strengthen these muscles. Here is her perfect pelvic floor workout:
Narrow or shallow, unweighted squats can promote a stronger pelvic floor and buttocks.
To perform the perfect squat, stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend at the knees, bringing your buttocks toward the floor. Keep your back straight and your knees in line with your toes. Tightening the butt as you return to the standing position increases pelvic floor contractions and tones your glutes.
Those with weak pelvic floors should avoid weighted squats, as these can put excessive strain on the pelvic floor, leading to urine leakage.
If you are in this position, seek the help of ahealth expert or fitness professional, who can tell you which exercises toavoid or modify and ensure you have the correct technique before beginning anyexercise programme.
Walking hip raises
Start by lying flat on the ground with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Alternate your legs by lifting them until your thighs are vertical. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle.
You’llbe able to feel yourself lift through your pelvic floor, as you connect throughthe muscles between your hips.
Try some yoga
Some women have overly tight pelvic floors, because of bad posture orlong periods of sitting. In these circumstances, learning to release theirpelvic floor before doing any kind of strengthening exercise can be beneficial.
Simple yoga moves like Malasana (a deep squat with elbows pressed against your inner thighs) and Reclined Bound Angle (lying down with the soles of feet together and the knees falling out to the sides) lengthen and stabilise the pelvic floor, so it contracts and will stretch in controlled extension as you lower closer to the floor.
Child’s Pose also opens the lower back, allowing the pelvic floor to expand and stretch as you breathe.
Practice manual kegel exercises
It’s never too early or too late to learn how to exercise and strengthen your pelvic floor by practising manual kegel exercises.
There are slow and fast Kegel exercises and it’s best to alternate between the two, ideally for five minutes, at least three times a day.
First, sit, stand or lie with your knees slightly apart. Slowly tighten your pelvic floor muscles starting with your anus (as if you are trying not to pass wind – the biggest part of your pelvic floor muscle is located here), then tighten around your vagina, squeeze both areas and lift (or ‘suck-up’ your muscles) as hard as you can. Hold for the count of five, then relax, repeat five times.
Then, repeat but more quickly. Hold for two seconds, then relax for two seconds. Repeat five times. As your Kegel muscles become stronger increase the length of time you ‘squeeze and lift’. You should aim to hold each slow Kegel for a count of 10.
Brush up on your breaststroke
A fan of swimming? Well, try brushingup on your breaststroke skills. The simple motion of bringing your legstogether causes thigh and pelvic floor muscles to contract, thus strengtheningthem.
All swimming strokes help to tonepelvic muscles to some extent as you’re continuously engaging these muscles tokeep yourself balanced in the water.
Swimming also brings weightlessness, reducing pressure on the pelvic floor, perfect for those suffering from a weak pelvic floor or pelvic organ prolapse.
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