Pelvic floor muscles are responsible for maintaining our pelvic organs in their correct positions. They help us to achieve and maintain an optimal urinary stream and sexual function. Weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to bladder or bowel problems, difficulty with childbirth, and other health issues. So does running strengthen your pelvic floor?
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Does Running Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor?
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there on whether or not running is good for your pelvic floor. Some people say that the repeated pounding of running can cause pelvic floor muscles to weaken, while others claim that running strengthens these muscles. So, what’s the truth?
A study published in the “International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics (IJGO)” set out to answer this question, does running strengthen your pelvic floor? The study looked at the pelvic floor muscle strength of women who ran regularly and those who didn’t run at all.
The results showed that, overall, the pelvic floor muscle strength of both groups was pretty similar. However, when the researchers looked specifically at the women who ran regularly, they found that their pelvic floor muscle strength was significantly higher than that of the non-runners.
A new study published in The Journal of Sex Research (JSR) suggests that regular running may help maintain tightness and strength in the pelvic floor muscles. In other words, running can help strengthen your pelvic floor so that you have a stronger foundation from which to support your weight during sex. Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is a common condition caused by various factors, including childbirth, obesity, menopause, and aging. Symptoms can include incontinence, poor sexual function, and painful intercourse.
How Can You Tell if your Pelvic Floor is Weak?
Your pelvic floor muscles help support your bladder, bowel, and uterus. As you age, or if you have a baby, these muscles can weaken. This can lead to problems such as leaking urine (incontinence), constipation, and pelvic organ prolapse. You can do exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
What are the Benefits of a Strong Pelvic Floor?
Pelvic floor muscles are those that support the uterus and bladder. Researchers found that running increased the strength of pelvic floor muscles by up to 45 percent. Additionally, regular exercise may help to keep these muscles toned and flexible, which can help prevent conditions like prolapse.
There’s a reason your pelvic floor muscles are sometimes called your “core” muscles. These muscles play a vital role in your overall health, whether you’re a runner or not. Many people don’t realize the importance of these muscles until they experience problems such as incontinence or prolapse. But even if you don’t have any problems with your pelvic floor muscles, it’s still important to keep them healthy. Here are just a few reasons why:
1) Pelvic Floor Muscles and Spinal Health: A Foundation for Overall Well-being
Your spine serves as the central pillar of your body, providing support for upright posture and acting as a protective conduit for your spinal cord—a crucial component responsible for transmitting messages from your brain to the rest of your body. Maintaining a healthy spine is paramount for overall well-being, influencing various bodily functions and processes.
When you engage in activities that strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, you’re essentially contributing to the integrity of your spine. These muscles work in harmony with the supporting structures of your back, creating a robust foundation that aids in the prevention of back pain and spinal issues. By fostering strength in your pelvic floor, you actively invest in the longevity and vitality of your spine, promoting a healthy and pain-free back.
2) Pelvic Floor Muscles, Pelvic Stability, and Hip Joint Support
Beyond their role in spinal support, pelvic floor muscles play a crucial role in stabilizing your pelvis and safeguarding your hip joints. The pelvis serves as a central hub, connecting the spine to the lower limbs. Strong and well-conditioned pelvic floor muscles contribute to the stability of this region, preventing imbalances that can lead to discomfort or joint issues.
As you engage in activities such as running, these muscles undergo targeted strengthening, fortifying the support they provide to the pelvis. This enhanced stability not only supports daily movements but also becomes instrumental in protecting the hip joints. By promoting joint health, a robust pelvic floor contributes to overall mobility, reducing the risk of discomfort or limitations in hip function.
3) Pelvic Floor Strength and Prevention of Pelvic Floor Problems
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles goes beyond addressing current issues; it serves as a proactive measure in averting potential problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, maintaining a strong pelvic floor can significantly reduce the risk of urinary incontinence in women and enhance sexual function in men.
The pelvic floor acts as a supportive structure for various organs, including the bladder and uterus. Through targeted exercises like Kegels and other pelvic floor workouts, individuals can enhance muscle tone and resilience. This, in turn, mitigates the risk of incontinence and other pelvic floor problems, fostering long-term pelvic health and overall well-being.
4) Pelvic Floor Muscles and Sexual Health
In the realm of sexual health, the importance of pelvic floor muscles extends to their significant role in discharge. This process involves the coordinated contraction of various pelvic floor muscles, contributing to the pleasurable and functional aspects of sexual activity.
By maintaining the strength and flexibility of these muscles, individuals can positively influence their sexual health. Regular exercise, such as running, plays a part in preserving the integrity of pelvic floor muscles, potentially reducing the risk of issues related to discharging. This proactive approach to sexual health highlights the interconnectedness of physical activity and pelvic floor function, underlining the importance of a well-conditioned pelvic floor for a satisfying and healthy sex life.
Tips for Strengthening your Pelvic Floor
One in three women will experience pelvic floor problems in their lifetime. Weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and prolapse. Tips for Strengthening your Pelvic Floor – Does Running Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor?
1. Use a Pelvic Floor Muscle Trainer
A pelvic floor muscle trainer is a discreet device designed to enhance the strength of your pelvic floor muscles. Shaped like a small tampon with an attached string, it is inserted into the vulva, engaging the surrounding muscles. This practice, known as biofeedback, encourages the contraction and release of pelvic floor muscles, promoting better control and endurance.
Consistent use of a pelvic floor muscle trainer for just five minutes daily can yield significant results. The controlled resistance provided by the device allows targeted muscle engagement, contributing to improved pelvic floor tone. This technique is particularly beneficial for individuals who may struggle with traditional exercises or those looking for an additional method to enhance their pelvic floor strength.
2. Do Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are a fundamental component of pelvic floor strengthening. These exercises specifically target the pelvic floor muscles, aiding in bladder and bowel control and enhancing sexual function. The simplicity of Kegel exercises allows for easy incorporation into daily routines, as they can be performed discreetly at any time.
To perform a Kegel exercise, contract the pelvic floor muscles as if attempting to halt the flow of urine. Sustain the contraction for five seconds, then release. Repeat this process ten times for a single set. Regularly incorporating Kegel exercises into your routine contributes to the overall health and resilience of the pelvic floor muscles, reducing the risk of associated issues.
3. Avoid lifting Heavy Objects
The pelvic floor muscles play a crucial role in supporting various organs, including the bladder, bowel, and uterus. Engaging in activities that involve heavy lifting or straining during bowel movements can exert excessive pressure on these muscles, potentially leading to weakness or dysfunction. To maintain pelvic floor strength, it is advisable to avoid lifting heavy objects and practice proper lifting techniques when necessary.
By adopting a mindful approach to physical activities, individuals can protect their pelvic floor muscles from unnecessary strain. This proactive measure becomes increasingly important, especially for women, as weakened pelvic floor muscles can contribute to conditions such as urinary and fecal incontinence.
4. Drink Plenty of Fluids
A pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus, and bowel. These muscles and ligaments can become weak and stretched over time, which can lead to urinary incontinence and other problems. One way to help keep the pelvic floor hydrated and strong is to drink plenty of fluids.
Water is best, but any fluid will help. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. If you have trouble remembering to drink enough water, set a daily reminder on your phone or put a pitcher of water next to your bed.
5. Avoid Sitting in a Raised Position for a Long Time
Prolonged periods of sitting in a raised position, such as on a bicycle seat, can impact the length and strength of the pelvic floor muscles. This can potentially lead to stress urinary incontinence(SUI), characterized by unintended urine leakage during activities like coughing or sneezing.
To mitigate the risk of weakened pelvic floor muscles, individuals should be mindful of their sitting habits. Taking breaks, shifting positions, and incorporating exercises that target the pelvic floor can help maintain muscle integrity. These proactive measures are particularly relevant for individuals who engage in activities that involve extended periods of sitting, promoting pelvic floor health and overall well-being.
Running is beneficial for overall cardiovascular health and for weight loss. It’s now being suggested that running may also help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support the bladder and sexual organs. Weakness in these muscles can lead to urinary incontinence or sexual dysfunction. Stronger pelvic floor muscles may help improve these conditions.