People with overactive bladder (OAB) can exercise; however, behavioral modifications may need to occur.
Prior to exercise, patients need to empty their bladder completely. Relaxation exercises can be taught to ensure that patients relax their sphincters while urinating.
Avoid the use of substances that may contribute to increased bladder contractility for several hours prior to exercise. This includes caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol or acidic foods. Any medications that increase urinary output, such as diuretics, should be taken after exercise, so that the diuretic’s effect occurs at a more desirable time. Fluid replacement during vigorous exercise is important and a steady replacement of small volumes of fluid would be beneficial.
Patients should familiarize themselves with their workout environment so they have easy access to the bathroom. In the event that incontinence should occur, patients should be ready by wearing protective undergarments or darker clothing.
Men who suffer from OAB and run long distances outdoors have less difficulty finding somewhere to relieve themselves. But this can be a challenge for female runners. A product does exist (GoGirl), which is a compact funnel-like item that is easily carried and makes urinating in a hidden outdoor area more feasible.
When patients have stress incontinence, any exercises that increase intra-abdominal pressure can result in urinary leakage. This includes all aerobic activity, as well as weight lifting. Exercising, however, does not result in an increase in overactive bladder activity.
Another type of physical activity that may need to be adjusted is sex. OAB can affect sexual activity. Sexual activity can be interrupted if either partner experiences a strong desire to void during the sexual event. If the desire were not able to be suppressed, then this could result in urinary incontinence during sex, so the act may have to stop.
Patients with OAB associated with incontinent events may be challenged with maintaining personal hygiene. If this is not accounted for, then this could pose a hindrance to being sexually active.
One common entity seen in females with OAB is the presence of the anatomic abnormality known as a cystocele. A cystocele is a protrusion of the bladder wall into the vagina. There are varying degrees of cystocele. Some may be so extreme that the bladder can drop out beyond the external labia. When this is present, patients can experience difficulty with vaginal penetration. This can also be a cause of dyspareunia, or painful sex. Fortunately, cystocele repair can be accomplished surgically.
Overactive bladder may pose certain difficulties depending on the level of exercise and physical activity, but it can be successfully accomplished. Exercise is important for maintaining one’s health and overall well-being, so talk with your urologist about the best ways for you to exercise.