While it may be harder to gain muscle in old age, some strengthening exercises are worth the effort if they allow you to avoid bladder issues and even improve sex.
Urinary incontinence or loss of bladder control is twice as common in women as in men due in part to muscle weakness from multiple pregnancies and births. The use of exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles has been proven very effective, even in elderly women, and can help to avoid the use of drugs or invasive procedures.
According to Statistics Canada, at least one in eight people over the age of 65 suffer from urinary incontinence, nearly 4.4 million people in Canada. But it doesn’t have to be a normal part of aging.
Pelvic floor exercises are used to strengthen muscles in the treatment of stress incontinence and have the added benefit of improving blood flow, sensation, sex drive and orgasm in women. Men may gain better control over ejaculations.
To begin with, you can identify the correct pelvic muscles by stopping and starting the flow of urine. The old standby Kegel exercise is still an effective way to improve muscle tone. They are best done lying down to start, making it easier to focus on the pelvic floor. Think about pulling the muscles up and in, but don’t tighten the butt or abs. Try 5 seconds of squeezing followed by 10 seconds of rest, 10 times, 3 times per day for a total of 30. Eventually you will be able to do these repetitions anywhere; at a desk, watching television or waiting for the bus.
Keeping a regular bathroom schedule, gradually increasing the time between visits and suppressing the urge to urinate with contractions and distraction (counting backwards or another bladder drill) can also be helpful ways to manage incontinence. Drinking adequate fluids while limiting caffeine will aid in preventing irritation to the bladder.
For more information on bladder retraining, treatment and other resources visit www.canadiancontinence.ca .