How can I exercise with a prolapse is a common question I hear. This is often because a diagnosis may also come with a number of limitations. Such as, “don’t lift more than x amount”, or “avoid doing HIIT, or running, or CrossFit” or any other activity that may be considered harmful.
However, exercise isn’t bad for prolapse. In fact, it can have many benefits for you and your prolapse. Including better pressure management, a stronger body, stronger core, pelvic floor, hips, glutes and back. As well as being REALLY GOOD for your mental health.
So, this blog explores the HOW of exercising with prolapse, rather than a list of good (or bad!) exercises.
How to exercise with pelvic organ prolapse #1 Breathing
If you pop back to this blog about postpartum prolapse, there is a fantastic image of the core. This shows how the breath drives both the relaxation and lengthening of the muscles during an inhale. Then a drawing in and drawing up of the muscles during an exhale. This provides stability and support and is your pelvic floor coordinating with other elements of the core.
One of the jobs of the core is to manage intra-abdominal pressure. Often, when exercising with prolapse, we might want to be mindful (not fearful) of too much intra-abdominal pressure (and this is highly subjective and dependent on the individual) and we can use our core muscles to help with this. An exhale is a little release of intra-abdominal pressure and this can be timed with or just before the hardest part of the exercise. Depending on where you in your exercise with prolapse journey, you may wish to add a conscious pelvic floor contraction to help this action become more automatic. Ultimately, you want to retrain the pelvic floor muscles to do this without having to think about it.
Exercising with prolapse #2 Tension
Do you feel like you’re lifting a lorry each time you contract your pelvic floor (words from one of my amazing clients)? Or maybe feel that more pelvic floor is better? And this is super common. However, creating too much tension in your core and pelvic floor may drive more symptoms than it relieves.
Anthony Lo, also known as The Physio Detective, coined the phrase “tension to task” which is fab. This phrase often makes so much sense to clients too! Unless you’re lifting something heavy (and heavy is relative to the individual), you probably don’t need 100% pelvic floor contraction.
How to exercise with POP #3 Progressive overload
You don’t need to do all the things right away! And whatever you do want to do, there is a road back (even if you can’t see the steps right now).
This may look like starting exercises in lying and then moving positions such as kneeling and standing
Or opt for the light weights and gradually lift heavier ones.
It might look like 1 minute of running and gradually increasing run time and reducing walk time
Progressive overload offers a clear plan whilst also being able to adapt should symptoms crop up
Other methods for progressive overload
- Reducing rest time between sets
- Increasing the speed of an exercise
- Reducing the speed of an exercise and adding a pause
- Adding more instability eg one leg
Want more info on how to exercise with prolapse?
I’ve created a FREE 5 day mini course called ‘How to exercise with prolapse’ – you can sign up here
In this free course, I talk in detail about breathing, tension, pressure, and progressive overload. Plus how to create a roadmap back to the exercise you love.