When one thinks of an image of health, what likely comes to mind is someone who eats well, takes care of themselves, and is physically fit. Women who want to achieve health and wellbeing often turn to running or jogging for exercise and a way to take time for themselves and better their mental health. You would think that a lifetime runner would have the normal aches and pains that develop with impact and natural wear and tear, but one side-effect of a lifetime of morning jogs? Light bladder leaks.
Why Women Run
Why do so many people run in the first place? Many runners complain of knee, hip, and ankle pain that comes with post-workout inflammation. Runner’s knee can develop in regular runners as well. Looking past what may develop with years of running or jogging, there are plenty of benefits for physical and mental health that people turn to running for. According to Shape Magazine, running can help you improve:
- Heart health – Running even a few minutes a day is associated with a drastically reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, according to one study.
- Strengthen your joints – Although running may cause acute joint pain, it could help reduce your chance of developing knee osteoarthritis over time. Janet Hamilton explains in the article, “Every time you pound the pavement, you stress your bones and cartilage, just like your muscles, causing them to spring back stronger.”
- Burns calories and helps you lose weight – The average 150-pound person will burn about 12.2 calories per minute running a 10-minute mile.
- Works your core – Core health is very important, helps strengthen it. Balancing and changing the direction of your limbs engage the core as you run.
- Mental Health – While running cannot completely replace prescribed antidepressants or mood stabilizers, one study suggests that physical activity acts as an effective alternative to treating depression.
Even with all of these amazing benefits for both mental and physical health, it should be no secret as to why so many women turn to running as a hobby.
Why Women Develop Leaks
As we talked about before, women can be runners from a lifetime of races and 5ks to new runners starting out with a morning mile. Both can face light bladder leaks during their workouts. This is a urinary disorder called Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI. SUI can develop for a myriad of reasons, but they all tie back to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor muscles are used to help support the bladder and regulate the flow of urine. When the pelvic floor is weakened or damaged, two things may occur that lead to leaks: urethral hypermobility, which happens because the urethra shifts position due to an increase in abdominal pressure, and intrinsic sphincteric deficiency (ISD), which happens when your sphincter doesn’t seal off effectively at your bladder, causing leaks.
Although there are two kinds of SUI, experts believe most women have a combination of both. But why do runners develop these leaks? This is due to the repeated impact on the pelvic floor that occurs during your run. Some studies suggest that up to 30% of non-professional female marathon runners experience leaks and that up to one out of three female runners will experience pelvic floor issues at some point.
If you’re a female runner that has been cutting your runs short due to leaks, don’t fret! There are plenty of solutions for you, both immediate and long-term. As for changes you can make in how you run, Runner’s World had a few suggestions. The first being to make sure you’re drinking enough water before your run, although if you’re suffering from leaks you’ll probably want to instinctively drink less before you head out. But research suggests that this concentrates your urine which can irritate your bladder. In addition, caffeine and certain foods and drinks may also irritate the bladder and trigger leaks. If these leaks DO happen while you’re on the go, you can always use the age-old trick of tying a sweatshirt around the waist, or prepare ahead of time using tools and exercises.
Pads and Liners – incontinence pads and liners are disposable pads made specifically for the absorption of urine. While they work in the short-term, many find they’re uncomfortable and bulky to work out in and can cause irritation if left unchanged for a long period of time. Unchanged pads may also lead to Urinary Tract Infections and changing mid-marathon may not always be possible.
Kegels – These are exercises to help strengthen weakened pelvic floor muscles by engaging them specifically. With time, practice, and patience women may see a reduction in leaks by practicing Kegels.
Another solution for female runners suffering from light leaks during their run is the new bladder support device called Revive™. Revive works from the inside out to support the bladder and reduce leaks for up to 12 hours a day. It’s inserted like a tampon and provides internal support, so there’s no irritation or odor as with pads or liners. The device is small, flexible, and comes in one size that is designed to comfortably fit and move with the female anatomy. FDA cleared for over-the-counter use, Revive is available at retailers nationwide!