Mild resistance training using light hand weights is a good form of exercise for women living with incontinence.

“Exercising is great for the heart.” “Getting a move on can improve the muscles.” “Physical activity can do wonders for bones.”

“It’s one of those taboo topics that’s often not really spoken about. But it does happen in the gym and we embrace anyone to come on in, because you can exercise around incontinence issues,” Carissa Evans, an exercise physiologist at Fernwood Fitness, says.

While plucking up the courage to talk about your condition and symptoms can be daunting at first, it’s important to be as honest as possible so trainers can provide the best exercises for your individual circumstances. Exercise can be tailored for individual needs so every woman can make the most of her fitness journey, without worsening her incontinence.

“Us trainers need to be aware of health issues when we’re training our clients, just to make things as comfortable as possible for them,” Evans says.

While high-impact activities such as running, skipping and jumping can accelerate heart rate and are often discussed as great exercises for over-60s, they’re also likely to increase the risk of leakage and usually won’t be recommended to women experiencing incontinence. Similarly, deep squats or activities that require people to hold their breath place downward pressure on the bladder and are therefore unsuitable for women with this condition.

“If you’re doing lots of crunches, lots of deep squats, that can actually make incontinence worse. They will definitely be something to avoid,” Evans says. “Make sure that you’re keeping the resistance training to an appropriate level, so you’re not really straining, not really holding your breath and not really exerting that downwards pressure, which any trainer should be able to help you with.”

Opting for one-on-one personal training is a great option for women who want to exercise but aren’t sure where to start. A personal trainer can tailor exercises for individuals to create an easy-going and non-judgemental environment. A trainer will also normalise the condition so you can feel confident working out. They may also recommend exercises, such as pelvic floor exercises, to complete at home.

Women can generally strengthen their pelvic floor muscles by imagining they’re holding the flow of urine or holding in wind and trying to squeeze, which pulls up and holds the muscles in that area.

“A lot of women start to see very fantastic results within four to six weeks,” Evans says of pelvic floor exercises. “But not all women do, which is important to remember.”

Furthermore, personal trainers can often identify a factor increasing leakage and target that to prevent it.

“If you’re overweight, weight loss can actually help reduce the stress on the bladder,” Evans says. “I’ve had ladies come in and simply do weight loss. They’ve actually seen a decrease in their incontinence issues.”

Fitness experts like the ones at Fernwood Fitness can also offer advice on the types of gym equipment that are best for women experiencing bladder leakage.