Losing weight when you are carrying excessive weight can have many health benefits. Surprisingly, research even suggests that keeping a healthy BMI, staying in shape may reduce symptoms of incontinence in women.
In a study in 2016, 1,500 elderly females who suffered from stress or urge incontinence were surveyed. The results of the three-year long study concluded that women who kept their weight down and partook in muscle-strengthening exercises experienced lower amounts of incontinence incidents. In addition to this, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009 found that losing weight can dramatically reduce episodes of incontinence. In a randomized trial funded by the National Institutes of Health, moderate weight loss in a group of heavy women who undertook a six-month diet and exercise program cut the frequency of urinary incontinence episodes by nearly a half. At six months, the women who took part in a weight loss program lost an average 8% of their body weight and reduced weekly urinary incontinence episodes by 47%. Study researcher Leslee L. Subak, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, states “Our results suggest that a decrease in urinary incontinence is another health benefit associated with weight loss and that weight reduction can be a first-line treatment in overweight and obese women.”
Why does Weight Loss reduce Symptoms of Incontinence?
The unnecessary weight that is put on the pelvic muscles adds additional pressure to the area. As a consequence, leaks and accidents are much more likely to occur. As Dr. Cindy Amundsen of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina states, “By reducing weight and abdominal fat there is less pressure on the bladder resulting in less stress urinary incontinence.” She claims, “better muscle strength may be associated with higher pelvic floor muscle strength and function, decreasing the susceptibility to urine leakage”. Simply put, the less stress you put on the bladder, the less you are likely to experience incontinence. If you’re carrying extra weight, your bladder can feel the pressure caused by those extra pounds. In an overweight person, the pelvic floor muscles have to work harder to keep the bladder firmly shut. Overworked to prevent leakage, the muscles, nerves, and the structure of the pelvic floor weaken. This constant strain increases the risk of urinary incontinence. Being overweight or obese (a BMI over 30 kg/m²) can cause urine leakage as the constant pressure caused by the excess weight stresses the bladder and the surrounding muscles.
In losing weight, you are putting much less pressure on your muscles. Urogynecologist, Dr. Crisp, points out “the muscles aren’t having to do so much accessory work, so to speak. They’re then able to extend their energy supporting the pelvic floor and the bladder, rather than all of the additional pressure from excess weight”. Additionally, any exercise that is involved in keeping an eye on your weight can also help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, making it less likely for unexpected urine to pass through. As women have been shown to have weaker pelvic floor muscles than men, it is important for women to exercise their pelvic floor muscles to reduce the symptoms of an overactive bladder.
What should you consider before losing weight?
To keep a track of your weight, it is useful to frequently check your body mass index. This is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight for your height. If your body mass index is unhealthy, it may be worthwhile considering weight loss as an appropriate action.
Dr Crisp asserts that it is important to first consider other options of treatment before rushing into losing weight. Whilst Dr. Crisp does encourage weight loss for her overweight patients struggling with incontinence, she emphasizes that when she creates a treatment plan, patient preference comes before the urgency to lose weight. She claims, “we go through all of their options, including pelvic floor, physical therapy and outpatient surgery and medication. If the patient chooses to move towards physical therapy, weight loss and behavioural training, we go through their program with them to improve muscle strength and lose weight.
It is vital to consider the following tips to ensure losing weight is done in a healthy way:
> Be realistic with your goals and do not rush towards an ambitious weight. Healthy weight loss should happen slowly and steadily.
> Talk to a Doctor to first get advice on whether weight loss is an appropriate and healthy idea for you.
> Talk to other people you know who may be suffering from incontinence and see if they can lose weight with you. It may be better to understand that you are not the only person on a treatment plan for incontinence.
Exercising to lose weight requires you to choose the most convenient incontinence products for this. Below are some products we recommend for those wishing to live a more active lifestyle: