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Incontinence ChoiceLast year, a poll published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists found that 60% of UK women experience at least one symptom of poor pelvic health.

The most common symptom was urinary incontinence, which can be particularly stressful to deal with – especially in public. Yet, the poll also found that, unfortunately, 69% of women hadn’t spoken to doctors about these issues.

For women, urinary continence is linked closely with the strength and condition of our pelvic floor muscles. A pelvic floor is a muscle group that supports the organs in the pelvis – including the bladder, uterus, and rectum – and plays a key role in maintaining both urinary and bowel continence, core stability, and sexual function.

However, just like all muscles, the pelvic floor can become weakened; usually due to pregnancy, childbirth, ageing, and certain medical conditions. Though, the good news is that there are lots of things that you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor and boost your overall quality of life.

To help with this, we’ve teamed up with the award-winning Incontinence Choice to bring you six ways to improve pelvic floor health. Vivactive is the leading provider of incontinence products, and their expertise and products have helped thousands of women experiencing poor pelvic health.

While the tips below will hopefully help you reduce bladder leaks in the long term, if you need a quicker solution, you can browse Incontinence Choice’s range of female incontinence products. They stock a wide range of popular brands including TENA, Always, and their own brand Vivactive, all for less than you’d find in your local supermarket.

1. Incorporate pelvic floor exercises into your routine

Incorporate pelvic floor exercises into your routine

The single best thing you can do to boost your pelvic floor health is to do daily pelvic floor exercises. You don’t need to go to the gym for this, as you can often do these exercises when you’re going about your day – whether going for a walk, sitting at your desk, or standing in a queue.

The best-known pelvic floor exercises are kegel exercises, which involve squeezing and releasing the same muscles you use to stop the flow of urine. The NHS suggests doing a set of 10 slow contractions followed by a set of 10 quick contractions every day. However, Kegel exercises aren’t the only exercises you can do to improve pelvic floor health.

To see how easy it is to fit pelvic floor exercises into your daily routine and exactly which muscles to target, have a watch of Incontinence Choice’s video below.

2. Do yoga or Pilates

Do yoga or Pilates

While Kegel exercises target a specific area, other exercises – such as yoga and Pilates – can also be beneficial for improving pelvic floor health. Another perk is that these exercises also go a long way in improving overall strength, balance, and coordination – something that becomes even more crucial in our 50s and 60s.

It’s important to remember that the pelvic floor is part of a larger muscle group – and the diaphragm, abdominals, and obliques are also linked to pelvic floor health. So, regularly working these muscles is another great way to boost pelvic health and prevent urinary incontinence.

Yoga, in particular, can increase flexibility and circulation in the pelvic area, and certain poses, like the goddess pose, bridge pose, and pigeon pose can specifically target pelvic floor muscles. One study of women experiencing incontinence saw a 70% decrease in incontinence frequency after the women participated in a six-week yoga therapy programme.

Practising Pilates is also beneficial. Because it’s designed to strengthen your core muscles, Pilates can be a great way to combat stress incontinence that’s brought on by actions like laughing, sneezing, or coughing. Pilates classes also tend to incorporate pelvic floor exercises.

To find out more, you might want to read our introductions to yoga and Pilates over 50.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

Maintain a healthy weight

According to a 2023 NHS health survey, 26% of British adults are classified as obese, while a further 39% of adults are overweight, but not obese. Because being overweight can put you at increased risk of health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your health.

However, being overweight can also weaken your pelvic floor muscles. The weight of excess tissue can place pressure on your bladder, as well as the other organs within the pelvic floor, so losing excess weight can go a long way in preventing leaks.

From a dietary point of view, it’s also worth trying to avoid certain foods and drinks that can irritate the bladder. These include caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, tomato-based foods, acidic juices and fruits, carbonated drinks, and chocolate.

4. Drink plenty of water

Drink plenty of water

If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, the most common symptom of poor pelvic floor health, you might feel reluctant to up your fluid intake. But restricting your fluid intake can cause concentrated urine, which may irritate your bladder, reduce its capacity, and intensify incontinence. It can also lead to constipation, placing more strain on your pelvic floor.

The NHS recommends drinking between six to eight glasses of fluid a day, and this doesn’t have to be water; low-fat milk, plant-based milks, and sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee all count.

5. Avoid heavy lifting

Avoid heavy lifting

While exercise is good for improving pelvic floor health, the NHS advises that lifting heavy weights may put strain and pressure on your pelvic floor muscles.

Remember that lifting heavy weights isn’t always an intentional action that happens in gyms. Lifting heavy objects in your day-to-day life, whether that’s a small child, shopping bags, or furniture, can also be problematic.

If you do need to lift something heavy, make sure you breathe deeply, use both your legs and glutes, keep your pelvic floor muscles tight, and try to maintain a good posture. And remember to ask for help if needed.

6. Get enough vitamin D

Get enough vitamin D

Getting enough vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles – and yet it’s estimated that around one billion people worldwide are deficient. Interestingly, recent health studies on women show that having high levels of vitamin D means you’re at less risk of having a weakened pelvic floor.

Nearly a quarter of participants reported pelvic floor weakness, and the studies found that those suffering from incontinence had significantly lower vitamin D levels compared to the women who didn’t suffer from incontinence. Because Vitamin D plays an important role in muscle function, it’s believed that it may have a direct effect on strengthening your pelvic floor muscles.

To learn more about vitamin D, and find out how you can make sure you’re getting enough, you might want to read our article; What is vitamin D and why do we need it to stay healthy?

Final thoughts…

If you’re dealing with incontinence, we hope you’ve found this article helpful, and are inspired to take some of the steps above. Some steps, like losing extra weight, can make all the difference, and many people find that simply reaching a healthy weight is enough to improve things.

However, as you might expect, improving your pelvic floor health takes time, and often involves making sustainable lifestyle changes, like quitting or reducing caffeine or alcohol, or taking time for daily exercise.

In the meantime, if you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, there are certain products that can give you protection and peace of mind until your pelvic floor health improves.

Because many women feel embarrassed about their incontinence, they may be reluctant to buy incontinence products, preferring to use period pads and liners to deal with leaks. But unlike incontinence products, these aren’t designed to absorb urine and won’t be as effective.

Wondering which incontinence products are best for you? Head over to Incontinence Choice to browse an extensive range of products, including specially designed pads for women experiencing urinary leakage.

Remember that millions of men and women are currently experiencing incontinence, and there’s no need to struggle in silence. By learning more about the pelvic floor, drinking lots of water, maintaining a healthy weight, and doing pelvic floor exercises – as well as exercises like yoga and Pilates – you can improve your pelvic floor health, ease incontinence, and live a comfortable and confident life.

Have you found any of these tips particularly useful? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.