Women who participate in high-impact activities may be at higher risk for pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) such as urinary incontinence than women who participate in low-impact activities. Following childbirth, 30% of mothers report urinary incontinence and 10% report anal incontinence. Women are all too often advised to avoid activities such as high intensity interval training (HIIT), boot camp, running and CrossFit ® to avoid worsening pelvic floor dysfunction. Another point of view suggests that participation in these activities may result in positive adaptive strengthening of the pelvic floor and supportive tissues in response to the increased challenge of the exercise.
A recent study (Forner et al 2020) investigated the prevalence of pelvic floor dysfunction in women that either participated in running OR CrossFit. The study included both women who had and had not given birth.
Across the board, women who have given birth have a higher incidence of PFD than women who have not given birth.
Prevalence of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) symptoms and anal incontinence (AI) was higher in female runners than CrossFitters.
Urinary incontinence was the most reported pelvic floor symptom for both runners and CrossFitters, but there was no significant difference between groups
These data suggest that CrossFit and other weightlifting activities where women lift heavy loads close to maximum effort may not result in increased pelvic floor problems as compared to running.
Given the health benefits of different forms of exercise such as strength training and cardiovascular exercise, women should have options available when selecting appropriate exercise to meet their health goals. Pelvic floor muscle training has been shown to improve symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction when performed under the supervision of a pelvic physical therapist.
Mend Recommendation: If you are experiencing pelvic floor symptoms such as leaking with exercise with running, weightlifting or jumping, seek assistance to determine the root cause of these symptoms. Don’t ignore them! It is likely that you will benefit from the expert evaluation of a physical therapist that is knowledgeable in running mechanics, weight lifting, high level exercise prescriptions and pelvic floor function. Schedule an appointment with one of our women’s health experts now.
Mend has 2 clinic locations available to serve active women throughout the lifespan in Boulder County, including Boulder, Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, Superior and Erie.