Exercise is a prescription for good health.
Regular physical activity provides benefits from managing weight to improving your brain health; reducing the risk of disease and strengthening bones and muscles; as well as improving your ability to do everyday activities.1
If you have a pelvic condition, however, you may wonder what exercise should be avoided, and what activity can be a benefit. For instance, will walking make prolapse worse? Let’s explore walking as an exercise with pelvic organ prolapse.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Known as POP for short, pelvic organ prolapse is a condition whereby one or more of the organs in your pelvis slip down from their normal position. Prolapse can affect your uterus, bowel, bladder or top of the vagina.2
Prolapse is caused by weakened muscles in your pelvis, and in more severe cases, the impacted organ may bulge onto another organ or outside your body. Your symptoms may vary depending on where the prolapse is located, but the most common side effect is feeling a bulge in your vagina, as if something were falling out of it.3
If you’re wondering about exercising with prolapse, some of the other symptoms may impact your ability or desire. For instance, some women experience a bulge or pressure that worsens throughout the day, or when you’re on your feet too long.3
As well, incontinence often coexists with POP, which can impact your quality of life including exercise. You may have the related symptoms of:3
- Stress incontinence: leaking pee when you cough, laugh or exercise
- Urge incontinence: a frequent urge to pee that’s hard to control
- Fecal incontinence: being unable to control when you poop
So what does that mean for exercising with prolapse, and can you include walking in your daily routine?
Will Walking Make Prolapse Worse
Different women experience prolapse in different ways, so the answer to this question is not as simple as YES or NO.
One study, for instance, stated that women who exercise generally have stronger pelvic floor muscles than women who don’t exercise. Stronger muscles may help avoid or improve prolapse. The study also stated that mild to moderate physical activity—such as walking—decreases the risk of urinary incontinence.4
It went on to say that female athletes are about three times more likely to have urinary incontinence, and that there is some evidence that strenuous exercise may cause and worsen pelvic organ prolapse—although data is inconsistent.4
There are some women that find the feeling of pressure gets worse after walking.5 Others say that walking is fine, but walking while pushing a stroller for a long distance, for example, made their prolapse worse.6
In general, however, it seems that low impact exercise is safe and in fact beneficial for women who have a prolapse. Walking is one example of a low impact exercise, along with swimming, seated cycling and low intensity water aerobics.7
One suggestion is to start with short walks and build up in steady increments. You may find your prolapse bothers you if you do too much too soon.6 If you suffer from incontinence, then sanitary products or planning bathroom breaks may make you feel more confident about heading out for a walk.
Walking may be preferable to more intense exercise like lifting heavy weights, high-impact aerobic activities involving jumping or hopping, or sit-ups. After your walk, incorporate Kegel exercises to help strengthen your pelvic floor.8
Ask a Doctor
If you have pelvic organ prolapse, use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health. Talk to your doctor about incorporating walking and other exercise into your daily routine. A health care provider can give you advice on exercise and prolapse for your specific situation.