Trying to navigate strength training with a prolapse can feel a tad tricky. On one hand, you see the fitness industry recommending it for women. But you may also have been told, “don’t lift”, “don’t do weights”, “lifting weights is bad for your pelvic floor”.
Let’s take a step back and look at the benefits of strength training for women.
The benefits of strength training for women
The benefits of getting stronger (aka strength training) are endless! Ok, maybe not endless, but there are loads:
- maintain and build muscles mass (especially useful for women over 35 years as muscle mass decreases after this point)
- helps prevent injury
- improves bone and joint health
- boosts mood and self-confidence
- makes everyday life easier (carrying shopping, lifting stuff)
- it’s good for the pelvic floor….
You might read that last one and ask yourself if that is realy true?! Well, actually it is and it’s shown by this research study by Virtuoso at al, 2019.
The study showed took women over 60 years old who were experiencing leaking and had at least 2/5 strength in their pelvic floor. They wanted to see if doing weight training alongside pelvic floor exercises helped to resolve bladder leaks quicker than Kegels alone. And it did – hurrah!
The study divided the women into 2 groups:
- Intervention group – 2 x weight training sessions per week + pelvic floor exercises
- Control group – pelvic floor exercises only
At the end of the 12 week study, both groups had a reduction in the frequency and amount of leaking, AND a positive impact on their quality of life.
75% of the women in the intervention group (strength training + pelvic floor exercises) eliminated their leaking versus 38% in the control group (pelvic floor exercises only).
Why you've been told not to lift if you have prolapse
The narrative around lifting, particularly “heavy lifting” has focused on the fact, that it presents an insurmountable challenge to the pelvic floor and pelvic floor muscles. As a result, many women with prolapse are simply told not to lift. Regardless of whether they need to, either in their daily life, their job, or just because they really enjoy lifting weights. This not only affects the ability to do everyday tasks but can be detrimental to mental health too.
However, we all live ‘loaded’ lives. From carrying children or shopping/workbags, to having to shift some furniture or if you lift as part of your job.
The fact is, there are many ways that strength training can be adapted to meet your body (and pelvic floor), where it’s at.
That may mean incorporating some resistance bands or light weights into some of your rehab exercises. Or it may mean, looking at your bracing and breathing strategies if you have symptoms during or after lifting.
Because life gets easier when you get stronger!
I frequently see women improving their symptoms because they are getting stronger – both their whole body and pelvic floor! I think it’s a must have in any pelvic floor plan.
Have you been told not to lift because of your pelvic floor?
You can also find more discussion about strength training and prolapse in this client story