There are several risk factors for pelvic floor disorders that you have no control over, such as genetics, age, and whether or not you’ve given birth vaginally. But lifestyle also plays a key role in your pelvic health, which gives you back some control.
Heavy lifting can be a risk factor for pelvic floor disorders because it can put strain and pressure on pelvic floor muscles. Therefore, women may want to consider adjusting how much they lift. This is especially true if they currently have a disorder or are at greater risk for developing one.
Being active is still one of the best defences against pelvic floor disorders, so keep reading to learn the best ways to move your body while minimizing risk.
Pelvic Floor Disorders & Heavy Lifting
The pelvic floor consists of the hammock of muscles running between your pubic bone and tailbone. These muscles support your pelvic organs (the bladder, reproductive organs and bowels), maintaining bladder and bowel control.
Pelvic floor disorders occur when these critical muscles are injured or become too weak to function properly. They are no longer able to support your organs or maintain elimination control, leading to issues like pelvic organ prolapse and bladder leakage.
Like we mentioned, there are many risk factors for pelvic floor disorders over which you have no control – childbirth, menopause and age, and some surgeries. But putting undue pressure on your pelvic floor can also lead to disorders, and this you can control.
Namely, anything that puts strain on the pelvic floor can lead to pelvic flood disorders – like being overweight or obese, chronic straining for bowel movements, chronic coughing, and heavy lifting. 1
Remember that heavy lifting doesn’t just happen at the gym. Lift your children all the time? They’re heavy too! Many women also have to lift heavy objects at work, placing them at greater risk.
Of course, sometimes it’s not possible to avoid heavy lifting, especially with children at home. Any time you have to lift something heavy, be sure to breathe deeply, use your legs and glutes and try to maintain good lifting posture. Always use your best judgment, and ask for help when you need it.
Pelvic Floor Disorders & Exercise
Exercise is critical to maintaining our health, and unlike in centuries past, girls and women are now free to pursue strenuous physical activity. And most moderate physical activity in general doesn’t harm the pelvic floor. For example, one review found that mild to moderate physical activity (like brisk walking) decreases the risk of developing urinary incontinence. 2
That said, there are limited studies about the specific impact of strenuous exercise on the pelvic floor, and we need more research in this area. At this point, it seems to be the case that for women with an optimally functioning pelvic floor, physical activity can be beneficial. However, for women with pelvic floor disorders, strenuous, high impact exercise may be detrimental. 3
Strenuous exercise that you therefore may want to avoid includes running, jumping, dance and step aerobics, and most competitive sports. Try not to focus on getting that six-pack, and instead work on muscle balance throughout your body. It’s probably best to avoid traditional sit-ups and crunches, and other exercises that place extra stress on the upper abs.
And while muscle soreness is ok, you never want to experience actual pelvic pain after a workout.
If you have questions about how to exercise with a pelvic floor disorder (or to prevent one), consult with your doctor. You can use our free Physician Finder to find a qualified pelvic health physician near you.
Finally, don’t forget that you can also exercise your pelvic floor! Just like other muscles in your body, it too can benefit from a good (but safe) workout. Find healthy ways to exercise your pelvic floor here, and remember that just because you have a pelvic flood disorder, it doesn’t mean you have to stay couch-bound. You can still stay active, as long as you speak to your doctor, avoid risky behaviours and exercise properly.