How to Look After Your Pelvic Floor When Running

This article explores how running can affect the pelvic floor, and what modifications you can make to protect this important group of muscles and still enjoy going for a run!

How to Look After Your Pelvic Floor When Running

This article explores how running can affect the pelvic floor, and what modifications you can make to protect this important group of muscles and still enjoy going for a run!

It’s no secret that exercising is beneficial for your physical and mental health - with running being one of the most popular types of cardio exercise!

But did you know that running can put stress on your pelvic floor, and contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction, urinary leakage or pelvic pain?

Unfortunately, the impact of running on the pelvic floor is often worse for women, with female athletes being three times more likely to have urinary incontinence [1].

If jogging or running is your exercise of choice, keep reading below to find out what you can do to protect your pelvic floor when running, and what you can do to regain your pelvic floor strength.

How does running affect the pelvic floor?

Your pelvic floor is a combination of muscles, ligaments, nerves and tissues located in your pelvis. It supports the pelvic organs and holds them in place, including the bladder and bowel, as well as the uterus and reproductive organs for women.

When a person runs, the impact of their feet hitting the ground causes an increase in the pressure in the abdomen - and therefore puts strain on the pelvic floor. The force exerted from running is estimated to be about three to four times your body weight [1], and over time, this increased internal pressure can weaken the pelvic floor muscles.

When the pelvic floor is weakened, you might experience the following symptoms:

  • Leaking urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze (also called stress urinary incontinence or SUI)

  • Feeling the urgent need to go to the toilet

  • Having difficulty emptying your bladder or bowel, or being constipated

  • Having difficulty in controlling your bladder or bowel, resulting in urinary or faecal incontinence

  • Pelvic pain, especially after running

  • A pelvic organ prolapse (POP)

Other factors can lead to a weakened pelvic floor (such as having vaginal childbirth or going through menopause), and running when your pelvic floor is already weak can exacerbate any symptoms you might already be experiencing.

What can I do if my pelvic floor is weak from running?

If you’re leaking when you run or experiencing any other symptoms of a weak pelvic floor, it’s recommended to opt for a lower-impact exercise like walking, swimming or cycling on a stationary bike until symptoms improve with pelvic floor strengthening.

There are many different types of pelvic floor strengthening exercises you can try at home (such as kegels), and you might even choose to visit a pelvic physiotherapist to get professional, tailored advice and strengthening programs to follow.

How can I protect my pelvic floor when running?

Of course, engaging in physical activity is important to keep your body and mind feeling its best. So if running is your preferred form of exercise, the good news is that you don’t need to give it up to have a strong pelvic floor!

There are different things you can do to minimise the impact and pressure in your abdomen to protect your pelvic floor while running. You might try a combination of the following:

  • Enhance the way you run
    All bodies are different and there is no single ideal way to run. However, there are a few modifications you can make to the way you run that can reduce the force and pressure through the pelvic floor:
    • Keep your abdomen relaxed while running
    • Avoid pointing your chest upwards - this stretches the abdomen and creates a slight back bend, which makes it harder for your core to work effectively
    • The harder your feet land, the more force you exert on your pelvic floor - so try to land softly and quietly when running

It's also important to keep good posture while running so that your internal organs can all work together to support your body - so be sure your ribs are aligned over your pelvis when you run.

  • Reduce your speed
    A faster running pace increases the abdominal pressure, so be mindful of your speed and how long you maintain a faster speed while running.

  • Check your footwear
    You're probably already aware that wearing appropriate shoes for exercise is important, as your running technique is influenced by footwear. Opt for a shoe that's flexible, light in weight and has minimal sole thickness as they are less likely to interfere with the natural movement of your feet [2].

  • Walk downhill instead
    While running downhill can be a good way to get your speed up thanks to the decline, this isn't the best thing for your pelvic floor! When you run fast downhill, it's easy to take larger steps, with your feet hitting the ground a lot harder and therefore increasing your abdominal pressure. Try walking downhill where possible instead, or try to incorporate the downhill portion of your run into your cooldown.

It's recommended to combine the above modifications with pelvic floor strengthening exercises to provide the best support for your pelvic floor.

We hope this article has given you some helpful tips and tricks to maintain your pelvic floor strength while running! And, of course, if you experience any leakage from stress urinary incontinence we have a range of women’s incontinence pads and male guards in different sizes and absorbencies, to offer peace of mind and protection from leaks.

This article is general advice only, we recommend getting in touch with your GP or treating medical health professionals for tailored advice if you’re experiencing symptoms and concerns about incontinence related to a weakened pelvic floor.

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