Exercise is incredibly important for the female body. Research has shown that it positively influences mood, mental health, sleep quality and cardiovascular (heart) health and bone health.
BUT WHAT EXERCISE IS BEST? Considering as when, we need to take into account life stages such as pregnancy and post natal, ongoing pelvic floor issues, menopause and ageing. Argh – where to start?!
Bone health is an important consideration
Bone health is an important consideration for females at all stages. Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. This gender disparity is largely influenced by the role of oestrogen in promoting female bone health, and the rapid decline in oestrogen that occurs post menopause.
When most people hear about “bone health” and “osteoporosis” they think that this is only something that needs to be considered in the later stages of life. However, 90% of your bone mass (bone strength) is achieved by age 18 and peak bone mass is achieved by your late 20’s. Until menopause, your bone mass will then remain fairly unchanged until after menopause where it will decline by approximately 2% each year. It is therefore important to maximise bone mass before 30 and minimise bone loss after 30.
Bone health can be optimised by getting the recommended amount of calcium and protein daily, getting Vitamin D through safe sun exposure, not smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and most importantly increasing physical activity.
What activity is best?
The best types of activity for building bone are high impact, weight bearing exercises (brisk walk, stairs, dance, tennis, netball) and resistance training (weight training). Unfortunately, non weight bearing exercises such as swimming and cycling do not build strong bones, but can still be included as part of a well rounded exercise regime.
But what about my leaking?
While high impact, weight bearing exercises and resistance training are great for your bone health, often the same is not true for your pelvic floor. High impact exercise and weight lifting create increased pressure on the pelvic floor. If the pelvic floor is not strong enough to withstand these pressures, then this will cause the pelvic floor to weaken over time. A weak pelvic floor may manifest as leaking urine with sneezing or running, a poor ability to hold wind in or a pelvic organ prolapse. We therefore need to find a balance where we can positively affect bone health through exercise but not at the expense of the pelvic floor.
How to get your pelvic floor in tip top shape?
Some tips to ensure your pelvic floor is strong enough to withstand the force put on it by high impact exercise and weight lifting include:
- Daily pelvic floor exercises to build pelvic floor strength
- Use your symptoms as a guide, if you get any leaking or heaviness in your pelvis during an exercise or in the next 24 hours, this is a sign that you need to scale back the exercise and work back into it once you have built some more pelvic floor strength
- Decrease other strains on the pelvic floor, e.g. constipation and chronic coughs
If your pelvic floor is stopping you from doing what you need, let us help you. It’s what we do.