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How a Sedentary Lifestyle Impacts Incontinence as We Get Older

The older we become, the harder it is for us to maintain and gain muscle. While some might just view this as not having the biceps or abdominals they used to possess, many do not realize that muscles deep in our bodies are also affected, specifically our pelvic muscles.

After the age of 50, especially for women, muscles in the pelvis begin to deteriorate due to a shift in hormones and connective tissues becoming debilitated. These muscles can also decrease in strength as they are extremely thin, and as they weaken, so does our ability to support our bladder.

These natural changes combined with long-time habits of holding in your bladder and a lack of exercise can cause incontinence to appear and increase in severity as we get older.

How Exercise Impacts Our Bladder

In addition to connective issues changing as we age, a lack of movement or living a sedentary lifestyle causes those tissues to stretch from the constant force of our bodies sitting down – increasing the urge to empty the bladder.

Additionally, living a predominantly inactive lifestyle leads to a rise in constipation, which creates a full abdomen – preventing the bladder from expanding fully and causing distress to those structures. This stretch in connective tissues, coupled with an increase in constipation, eventually causes incontinence to occur and worsen if no changes in activity are made.

What Exercises Can Help Ease Incontinence

It’s important to remember that any activity is better than no activity, and nothing too strenuous is needed to activate your muscles and strengthen your pelvic floor.

Some exercises can even be done in a chair while watching television or working at your desk, such as marching your feet, touching your ankles from side-to-side, rounding and straightening your back or just sitting on an exercise ball. Anything that can activate your core to work those thin pelvic muscles can help alleviate bladder concerns.

Other exercises that can be done include walking, yoga or resistance band training. Prioritizing stretches and practices that help increase hip, adductor/abductor and abdominal strength will be key to improving overall incontinence issues.

And when deciding on what exercises to begin with, remember it’s extremely important to listen to your body and do what feels best. Overexertion can lead to more complications down the road.

When to Seek Medical Advice

If unsure where to begin and what exercises to perform based on your physical capabilities and the severity of your bladder and pelvic floor concerns, the best steps to take are to seek a medical provider that specializes in pelvic floor care.

Pelvic floor care providers can work with you to find a pelvic floor therapist that is best suited to fit your needs and assist you in building and maintaining the muscles needed to help manage incontinence.

However, if you notice a shift in activity is not helping your bladder health and you are not able to complete daily tasks due to your constant urges to empty your bladder, then please seek medical assistance from a specialized medical provider.

Are you an active person or are you rather sedentary? How often do you have the urge to empty your bladder? Have you noticed an increase in incontinence when you’ve been sedentary most of the day?

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The Author

Aleece Fosnight, MSPAS, PA-C, CSC-S, CSE, NCMP, IF is a Medical Advisor to Aeroflow Urology. She is a provider of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health, basic urologic care, and gynecological care for Western North Carolina and the Southeast and has opened up her own private practice in June 2020, Fosnight Center for Sexual Health, in Asheville, NC.

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