Pelvic Floor Friendly Summer Activities and Tips
Summer is officially in full force and since our seasons can change with a blink of an eye, we want to relish in everything summer has to offer. Often times that means being more active than we normally are in colder months or changing from indoor to outdoor forms of exercise. It is important to make sure that your are taking care of your pelvic health while enjoying the outdoors so here are a few things to consider:
Cycling: a great way to get your cardio and leg strengthening done in one shot. There have been studies to show that cycling can increase compression over the perineal area leading to sensory changes and sexual dysfunction (NIOSH, 2000). If you suffer from conditions such as vulvodynia, pudendal neuralgia or chronic pelvic pain syndrome cycling may not be the best option for you. If your pain symptoms are managed and you are looking to return to cycling, do so for short distances to start and consider modifying your seat to minimize perineal pressure. A seat like the one offered by www.spongywonder.com helps to alleviate this pressure by design.
Swimming: quite a popular one especially up at the cottage. Its generally a better activity for those with pelvic health issues as the water is buoyant and thus inherently diminishes pressure on the pelvic floor. Yay! Most strokes can be done without issue but beware of the whip kick if you are experiencing any pelvic girdle pain or weakness. If your pelvic alignment is not symmetrical this may bring on some pain, so just stop and try another stroke. The other thing to remember is that being in a wet bikini or swimsuit in the heat all day long (which may or may not involve a few cocktails if you’re on vacay) is a perfect storm to develop a UTI -urinary tract infection. Be safe and change out of your suit once your done; into a good pair of breathable cotton underwear. Also don’t forget to empty your bladder after swimming in order to flush out any bacteria that could potentially become a problem.
Hiking and Camping: another popular summer activity that can vary in physical demands depending on how ‘serious’ of a camper you are. Portaging can create an immense amount of pressure on the pelvic floor. Carrying heavy weight like this in addition to backpacks and walking on uneven terrain is very hard work. This takes a back and pelvic floor with good strength, coordination and endurance. If you experience a sense of pressure or heaviness in the pelvic floor area, this may be an indication that these types of loads are just too much. Maybe pass on the portaging for a more accessible campsite where you can control the distance of walking and carrying that you must do.
Running: and we can’t forget about running! Hard to resist when the weather is great. To keep things simple, if you are leaking, having pelvic pain or feeling pressure and heaviness ‘down there’ while running, PLEASE stop! I have seen my fair share of women and men that ignore the signals their bodies are giving them. They push through and this can create an even bigger problem with bigger consequences. If you are having any of these symptoms while running go see your doctor or a pelvic floor physiotherapist or modify the activity by walking at a very fast pace.
So what would I consider a pelvic floor friendly activity in the summer? How about trying some tai chi in the park. This is a low impact, stress relieving, mindful yet movement based exercise that is great for your mind, body, breath and pelvic floor.
So go on and get out there. Take advantage of what mother nature has to offer us for this short time but please don’t ignore your pelvic floor.
NIOSH . Health Hazard Evaluation Report: City of Long Beach Police Department, Long Beach, CA. By Schrader SM, Breitenstein MJ, Lowe BD. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2000-0305-2848.
Angelique Montano-Bresolin is a graduate of the University of Toronto Physical Therapy program and has been practicing as a Registered Physiotherapist for over 20 years with a specialty practice in pelvic health. Her extensive post-graduate training has included courses to assess and treat all genders and ages with concerns such as: incontinence, abdomino-pelvic pain and sexual pain in many populations including: pre and postnatal, post-surgical, post-menopausal and post-cancer. In 2012, she founded Proactive Pelvic Health Centre in Toronto, Ontario.