By Rachel Fawcett – Soft Tissue Therapist and Personal Trainer
As a personal trainer I’m often asked what the key to getting fit is and for most people, the answer is routine; getting into the habit of doing regular sessions at similar times which naturally become built into your day. But what if that routine becomes impossible due to regular Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), how do you commit to training with a PT or with friends and how do you stick to a class or training program? For many people, pulling on the Lycra and digging out the trainers takes a huge dose of will power, but when you are also battling acute pain in the pelvis, frequent bathrooms stops and a burning urethra, it all feels impossible. So what do you need to know about training and UTI’s?
Exercising with UTI symptoms
If you feel that you are able to, continue with your exercise program. UTIs are caused by bacteria (usually from the bowel) making their way up the urethra into the urinary tract and multiplying in the bladder. Exercising does not exacerbate this process, in fact, in the early stages, exercise might actually help to distract you from the discomfort for a short while. Try to choose activities which do not put additional pressure onto the pelvic area.
If you do choose to exercise then your water bottle is your best friend. Ensure that you start the session fully hydrated and keep drinking throughout. Accept that you will need to pop to the bathroom during the session. A regular flow of fluid through the urinary tract will help to flush out bacteria from the bladder and urethra and help to replace the fluids you will be losing through sweat.
Most exercises are ok to do with a UTI, however if you find yourself on the bar bell pushing out an overhead press, ensure that you breath throughout to reduce internal abdominal pressure and excessive downward pressure on the bladder. I would not recommend deadlifting or squats as the excessive hip flexing will inevitably increase pressure on the bladder.
A lot of abdominal work can, once again, increases internal abdominal pressure. If you do find yourself doing exercises such as crunches and planks, ensure that you breathe deeply throughout to cut this pressure down to the minimum. Ideally avoid this area entirely until you are feeling better, there will be plenty of other opportunities to work on that six pack, give yourself a break.
Post exercise hygiene
Try to avoid finishing off those never ending chores whilst still in your sweaty workout clothes. Gym kit is often tight fitting and can lead to increased pressure on the pelvic area so washing and getting into looser fitting clothes sooner rather than later is the best solution. Damp sweaty kit is also a perfect breeding ground for yeasts and other bugs which are the last thing you need when your pelvis is already on fire.
As mentioned, gym kit is often tight fitting. If you can, try to find looser fitting clothing to take pressure off the pelvic region for the duration of the UTI. Also look at the underwear which you are wearing; natural fabrics help to wick moisture away and keep the whole area healthy.
There is much written about how moderate exercise can reduce viral infections but, up until now, not a great deal written about bacterial infections. However Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise looked at 18874 people over a year and monitored how many antibiotics they took during this time. They found that “low and moderate levels of physical activity were associated with statistically significant reduction of suspected cystitis.” Although this is not a definitive causal relationship, the discussions around this study suggest that the increased fluid consumption associated with exercise can reduce the likelihood and severity of an UTI.
Better still, try to prevent UTIs with adequate hydration and try a natural product like URALIX to prevent UTIs from happening in the first place.
So, if you are prone to UTIs, you don’t need to totally avoid the gym, but be sensible and listen to your body.
You can probably achieve far more than you imagine.