Another little dive into the research on the impact of pelvic floor dysfunction on exercise in women! This study by Dakic et al, 2019 examines the barriers to exercise for women experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. This study looks at the pelvic floor as a barrier compared to other (and perhaps more well-known barriers).
Prior to this study SOME (meaning very limited) research had looked at stress urinary incontinence as a barrier. However, other pelvic floor dysfunctions such as anal incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse have not been examined so were included.
It is a large sample of Australian women who have either experienced pelvic floor symptoms during exercise or are fearful that they might.
The research sample
Included in the research sample were 4,556 women, residing in Australia who were 18-65 years of age, not pregnant, breastfeeding or within 6 months postpartum.
A number of existing pelvic floor screening questionnaires were used to help identify type of symptoms, severity and bother.
Pelvic floor symptoms were listed amongst 18 other known barriers to exercise. Participants were asked to rate the extent the barrier stopped their participation in preferred exercise using a 5 point Likert scale.
Results and findings
In this cohort of 4556 females, 31% reported pelvic floor symptoms as a substantial barrier to exercise. Urinary incontinence was the most frequently reported barrier. Two thirds of participants who identified prolapse and urinary incontinence as exercise barriers had stopped exercising.
Why are studies such as these important? Physical inactivity is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in women. Pelvic floor symptoms stop women exercising and are associated with physical inactivity.
Better screening for pelvic floor symptoms as well as management of pelvic floor symptoms could allow women to remain physically active across their lifespan.