Incontinence: The Power of Activity

Tasha Mulligan MPT Health Pro
  • I have blogged about the importance of exercise in some of my previous entries, “Exercise your Pelvic Floor – You Owe It to Yourself”, and “Strategies to Maximize Activity Level While Managing Incontinence”, but after returning from a continuing education course this weekend, I couldn’t help but to re-visit this topic.  Dr.  Sheilds, of the University of Iowa, presented current research on the effects of exercise on our bodies.  The primary message was a strong one – “Without exercise, our bodies are degrading.”  Research presented showed a significant increase in bone loss and muscle loss in sedentary individuals vs. active individuals.  This loss of bone and muscle results in a loss of function and replacement with adipose or fat cells.

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    He  also showed how a simple dose of exercise – just 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 minutes in the evening – can have a profound effect on preventing both muscle and bone loss.  It also has positive cognitive effects and prevents chronic disease including cancer, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, MS, diabetes, and more.  The research showed that effects of exercise are more powerful than any drugs we can take to prevent these diseases.  In essence, exercise is a wonder drug that can affect all of these chronic conditions and maintain our healthy body functions such as balance, lung volume, continence, weight management, cardiovascular health, brain function, and more.


    Knowing the power of exercise…why are so many of us not willing to get out of our chairs…yet we are willing to take several pills each day to attempt to accomplish the same goal.  Is the thought of exercise so daunting that we simply refuse to take this medicine?  Would we rather suffer the possible consequences of stroke, heart attack, dementia, diabetes, osteoporosis, or experience symptoms of incontinence???


    Let’s break it down to make it less daunting.  Studies show that any increase in activity has health benefits.  That’s right, ANY increase is beneficial!  So make those small changes today.  A couple of changes you can make is to climb the stairs whenever you have the opportunity.  When you get out of your chair, sit back down and repeat that activity 5 times.  Take a walk around the block.  Get back on a bike and enjoy riding like you did when you were a kid.  Perform 10 mini squats standing at the bathroom sink in the morning.  Put some music on and dance.  Increasing your activity any amount will improve your health today!  This activity helps to retain muscle tissue throughout your body and below I have included three exercises you can add to your daily routine to specifically target those muscles of your pelvic basket.  Everyone can do it, everyone has 5 minutes before they get out of bed in the morning!

    2 Step Kegel Sequence (8 repetitions)

    To perform a 2 step kegel sequence, begin on your back with your knees bent.  In this position, first perform a Kegel contraction by tightening your pelvic floor as if to stop the flow of urine or the passing of gas.  Hold this Kegel contraction as you begin to elevate your pelvic floor up into your pelvic outlet.  Imagine there is a string attached from your belly button down to your pelvic floor and you are attempting to pull it up.  Keep pulling that “string” up for a full 8-count.  (You will feel your belly button draw in as you work to pull your pelvic floor higher and that is okay.  This is your transversus abdominus coordinating with your pelvic floor)

  • At the count of 8, release your hold, relaxing your pelvic floor down, allowing yourself to take in a deep breath and release, relieving all muscle tension.  Now, follow with 4 quick flicks or quick Kegel contractions.  With this action, you are only tightening the muscles around the openings of your pelvic floor as if you don’t want to pass any urine or gas.  These are quick contractions with a quick release to a rhythm of “tighten, relax, tighten, relax” and so on for four quick flicks.  These quick flicks isolate the sphincter muscles of your pelvic floor so your back shouldn’t move and your legs should remain in the same position (bent at 90 degrees) as when you started the exercise.  At the end of your 4 quick flicks, reset and perform a 8 second pelvic floor elevation once again.

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    Bridge with adductor squeeze (3 x 8) 

    To begin, position yourself on your back with your knees bent, squeeze your buns tight, press through your heels, lifting your buns up off the bed for a 3 count before slowly lowering.  Continue to a rhythm of “bridge up  2, 3, and down, bridge it up 2, 3, and down…and so on for 8 reps.

    Standing multifidi extension 

    Standing so that you have a side view of your body in a mirror will give you the best visual feedback for this exercise.  Place your hands on your hips, so that you can feel the subtle movement of this exercise.  As you activate your multifidi muscles of your low back, you will give a lift to your tail bone. 


    The view that you would see in the mirror would be more of a gymnast posture when you activate your multifidi muscles, but make sure the movement is at the level of your pelvis only and there is no movement of your legs, upper back or shoulders.  Repeat this multifidi extension for 10 reps.  Remember that your pelvic floor muscles attach to your tail bone, so with each extension you are increasing the tension in your pelvic floor muscles and then relaxing them repetitively throughout the reps.

    Seated adductor squeeze (3 x 10)

    A bonus exercise that can be performed at any time throughout your day is the adductor squeeze.   It simply required you to place a pillow between your knees and squeeze your knees together for a 3 count.  You can do these as you sit and work on the computer, as you watch tv, etc.  Just squeeze those knees together to wake up some valuable muscles!!!

Published On: September 23, 2010