I think a little bit of wee came out…

I’m on a WhatsApp group with some girlfriends called The Trampoliners. The group is so called because we have all had the same experience when playing with our children on trampolines: the sudden realisation that [whispers] a little bit of wee has come out.

“Leakage” can be the result of weakened pelvic floor muscles, often described as a group of muscles which form a ‘sling’ which lies from the pubic bone to the tail bone. Both men and women have them, and their purpose is to keep the pelvic organs (bladder, bowel, and vagina and uterus in women) in place and prevent any unfortunate escape of contents. I’m not a health professional, so for more information check out this NHS webpage.

Warning: May cause embarrassment
Warning: May cause embarrassment

As embarrassing as it is, I’m glad we all confessed to this because as it turns out we’re certainly not alone.

Up to a third of all women will experience some pelvic floor issues at some point in their life, usually due to pregnancy and childbirth, but it does affect all women, particularly from middle age onwards, and men too.

Don’t let it stop you.

After my trampolining incident, it occurred to me that there must be loads of people out there who are avoiding exercise because they are worried about a little bit of wee coming out.

High impact exercises (where you are jumping around, like running or aerobics) and lifting heavy weights can put pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. So if you’re worried that those star jumps will in fact make you cross your legs, there are plenty of low impact exercises you can do. Try walking, cycling, Pilates or yoga, together with a regular habit of doing specific pelvic floor strengthening exercises, until you are more confident to take on that dance class.

How do I avoid putting Tena Lady on the shopping list?

Regular specific pelvic floor exercises are vital. They are quick (couple of minutes) and easy to do and no-one can see you doing them. But the trick is so get into a regular habit. Physiotherapists recommend three times a day for at least three months in order to see an improvement. So try doing them while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, when you stop at traffic lights in the car, or when you’re on the bus to and from work. You could also try setting a reminder on your phone or using this app designed by NHS physiotherapists.

NHS information

Pelvic floor exercises for women [PDF download]

Pelvic floor exercises for men [PDF download]

If you are worried about leakage, have a chat with your GP or seek out specialist help from a women’s physiotherapist.

Inspired by…Wimbledon

It’s July. It’s England. It’s strawberry season.

And it’s Wimbledon.

I don’t play tennis but I can’t fail to be inspired by the amazing athletes playing at the most famous tennis courts in the world. It just makes me want to scrabble around in the loft for a couple of rackets and find a 70s style plastic visor on eBay.

Tennis, it seems to me, is a really good way to keep active. You can usually find some tennis courts in your local area (find yours here) and if you can’t borrow or hire rackets and balls you can pick up some cheap ones in your local sports megastore.

You can take it as easy as you like. Just popping the ball back and forth to your partner will get you moving without too much effort (and, if you’re like me, you’ll be getting a good workout by simply retrieving all the balls which you’ve failed to hit).

Then, when you feel a bit more confident, you can step it up and start practicing those 100-mile an hour serves and aces.

Strawberries and tennis: a good match
Strawberries and tennis: a good match

A recent study1 found that a small group of inactive middle aged men at risk of heart disease who completed an 8-week tennis-based exercise programme showed improvement in fitness, a reduction in body fat and lowered their risk of heart disease.

So, persuade a friend, partner, or even one of your kids to venture out to your local tennis court and muck about for an hour. Then you will rightly deserve a Pimm’s and a bowl of strawberries.

 

1. Rosa Jr et al. A tennis-based health program for middle-aged men who are at risk for heart disease. Integrative Obesity and Diabetes 2017; 3(2): 1-6.

Inspired by…Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show 2017 kicks off today so it’s a good time to write about how gardening can be a great way to stay active.

A survey by the Royal Horticultural Society last year found that digging, weeding and mowing the lawn were cited as the top three activities to give the best workout.

Gardening burns calories and helps to tone muscles. Constant movement, bending and stretching will also help you to stay flexible. Gardeners in the RHS survey said that they felt physically and psychologically energised after doing a stint outside and one in five said that they felt less fit if they hadn’t gardened for more than three weeks.

Nature: good for the soul

Not only is it good for the body, but being out in nature gives a double whammy of being good for the mind too.

 

Don’t think you can run?

About ten years ago, I gave up my gym membership because it was expensive and just not convenient for me anymore. Instead, I looked into taking up running.

Like many people, I had never been ‘a runner’, I wasn’t sporty at school, and always did whatever I could to skive off the cross country PE lesson. During my student years I tried running a few times with my flatmate. Until then, the only exercise I indulged in was throwing crazy shapes on the club dancefloor and walking to the off license to take advantage of the 3 for £10 white wine offer. But every time I tried to run it just felt uncomfortable, my muscles cramped up and after a few attempts I gave up trying (back to the off license…).

But in my 30s running appealed to me again. I was working full time and paying high London rent. Running was convenient and free.

I made up my mind to give it a go and I credit this book with transforming me from someone unable to run for more than 15 minutes to someone who eventually ran the London Marathon in 2015.

Running made easy | Susie Whalley and Lisa Jackson
Running made easy | Susie Whalley and Lisa Jackson

The beauty of this book, Running Made Easy by Susie Whalley and Lisa Jackson, is that it starts at rock bottom. You alternate a few minutes of walking and jogging until, over time, you’re able to increase the jogging bit and decrease the walking bit. If you follow the plan you will end up running non-stop for as long as you want.

There are also loads of inspiring stories from people who have taken up running and the benefits it has brought to them.

I astonished myself when it dawned on me that in just a few months I was able to run for two hours without a break. You just have to start slowly.

Running appeals to many people because it costs nothing, it gets you out into the fresh air and you can do it anytime, anywhere with no equipment – you just need a good pair of trainers, and for women, a good sports bra.

If you’re interested but unsure how to start, this book will help.