Following prostate cancer, and at some point during ageing, you might be wondering which sports can help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Your pelvic floor muscles are a ‘hammock’ of muscles starting at your pubic bone and finishing at your tailbone, whose purpose is to support the uterus, bladder, bowel and other internal organs.
Today, we’re going to be looking at the types of movement, sport, and exercise that can help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
There are plenty of gentle sports that can help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles when used alongside an engagement of the pelvic floor.
Before starting any exercise programme with the intention of strengthening your pelvic floor, take the time to get familiar with how it feels to engage these muscles.
To begin, start by stopping the flow of urine mid-pee once or twice - this is how it feels to engage your pelvic floor. Following that, begin strengthening the pelvic floor by engaging the muscles several times a day. You can find out how to do that here.
Yoga and pilates are both gentle forms of exercise that commonly incorporate strengthening of the pelvic floor. In yoga, squeezing the pelvic floor muscles is thought to create an energy lock whilst also engaging the ‘root chakra’. It can also be a helpful tool to use during pranayama (or controlled breathing exercises) to create a more powerful experience of the practice.
As well as benefiting on a spiritual level when engaging the pelvic floor during yoga, you’re also strengthening the muscles responsible for bladder and bowel strength. To simplify this - the more you practice this engagement, the less likely you are to pee when laughing or coughing!
When it comes to strength training, the safest way to strengthen the pelvic floor is by focusing on gentle movement in the upper body.
Dumbbell curls and extensions, push-ups, and bench presses, for example, require a gentle engagement of the core - during which you can engage the pelvic floor - to slowly increase pelvic floor strength.
You might also like to practice wall squats and bridges when you feel ready to start moving towards the lower body.
Swimming is a very gentle form of exercise that is very healthy to practice when experiencing weakness in the pelvic floor. If you’re not a strong swimmer, begin by walking laps around the pool whilst engaging your pelvic floor for 10-15 seconds every 30 seconds - 1 minute.
We don’t like to advise against movement of any kind, but when your pelvic floor is recovering, you might like to avoid high impact exercise.
Sports such as running, tennis and football can cause stress incontinence and are best avoided until you feel that your pelvic floor is healthy and strong.