Incontinence, or urine leakage, during exercise is a common type of stress incontinence caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor therapy and some at-home steps can help.

It can be frustrating and embarrassing to experience incontinence during exercise, but it’s more common than you might think. Typically, it’s the result of weak pelvic floor muscles.

Factors such as giving birth, having certain surgeries, going through menopause, and having obesity can increase your risk of weak pelvic floor muscles and incontinence during exercise. Incontinence can also happen because a workout is extra intense.

This isn’t usually a cause for concern, especially if you experience it only once or very rarely.

If you regularly experience incontinence while exercising, treatments such as pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen your pelvic muscles.

Incontinence while you exercise is a type of stress incontinence, sometimes called stress urinary incontinence. It can occur if your pelvic floor muscles are weak. When pressure, such as the stress of exercise, is placed on your bladder, the weak muscles cannot stop your bladder from leaking.

The main symptom of urinary incontinence while exercising is leaking urine during your workout. For many people, it’s a small amount of urine.

If you experience incontinence while exercising, you might also experience other forms of stress incontinence. This can include leaking urine when you:

It’s possible for incontinence while exercising to happen only once or very occasionally. If this is the case, you likely don’t need medical treatment. But it may still be beneficial to take steps to strengthen your pelvic floor.

If you’ve had multiple episodes of incontinence while exercising, consider talking with a healthcare professional. They can help you make sure there are no underlying medical conditions or other factors causing the issue.

At your appointment, your healthcare professional will go over your medical history, your symptoms, and any medications you take. They will likely do a complete physical examination and a pelvic examination. They might also:

  • collect a urine sample to test for any infections or other abnormalities
  • order a urinary stress test to see how your bladder responds to everyday activities
  • order a neurological exam to make sure your pelvic nerves are functioning correctly
  • order an ultrasound to see how much urine is left in your bladder after you urinate

There are a few treatment options for incontinence during exercise. The best treatment for you depends on factors such as your overall health and the severity of your incontinence. Options include:

  • Pelvic floor exercises: Pelvic floor exercises are the primary treatment for incontinence while exercising. They can help strengthen your pelvic floor and the surrounding muscles, such as those in your hips, thighs, and glutes. A pelvic floor therapist can teach you the best exercises to help treat incontinence.
  • Bladder training: Bladder training is a treatment that can help you regulate when you empty your bladder. It involves making and following a strict bathroom schedule for a set amount of time until your body adjusts. A doctor or pelvic floor therapist can help you make a bladder training plan.
  • Pessary: A pessary is a small device that is placed inside your vagina to help stop bladder leakage. Pessaries are available in a variety of designs and sizes, and your doctor can help you select the one that is best suited for your body and your symptoms.
  • Urethral inserts: Urethral inserts are small devices that are inserted into the urethra to prevent leaks. They are typically worn during a specific activity, such as a workout.

You can also try certain lifestyle strategies to help prevent and manage incontinence while exercising, such as:

  • Wearing underwear liners: Underwear liners and other absorbent products can help protect your clothes while you exercise.
  • Using the bathroom right before you exercise: Always making sure to use the bathroom and empty your bladder before workouts can help reduce episodes of incontinence while exercising.
  • Limiting caffeine consumption: Caffeine can irritate your bladder and make incontinence while exercising more likely.

Incontinence while exercising is typically caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. A few risk factors can make this type of muscle weakness more likely:

  • obesity
  • smoking
  • frequent high impact activities such as sports that require running and jumping, especially if done over many years
  • any condition that leads to chronic coughing
  • childbirth through a vaginal delivery, especially if forceps were used
  • surgery in your pelvic area

Pelvic floor exercises can help many people resolve incontinence when exercising. The exact outlook depends on the severity and frequency of your incontinence and on underlying factors that contribute to it.

For some people, simply avoiding a specific exercise might be enough to prevent any future episodes of incontinence during workouts. For others, a combination of pelvic floor therapy and weight loss may help resolve incontinence.

Does incontinence while exercising only affect women?

No. Urinary incontinence while exercising is more common in women, but it can happen to anyone.

Do I need surgery for urinary incontinence while exercising?

Stress incontinence is sometimes treated with surgery. If you experience incontinence only when you exercise, surgery might not be the best option for you. But if you’re frequently experiencing incontinence during exercise and at other times throughout the day, your doctor might recommend it.

Learn more about surgery for stress incontinence.

Can I prevent incontinence by drinking less fluids?

You can manage the symptoms of incontinence while exercising by keeping track of how much liquid you drink. However, it’s important to stay hydrated, especially when you exercise. Talk with your doctor about the safest amount of fluids for you.

Urinary incontinence while exercising is typically caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. It’s a type of stress incontinence.

When you have stress incontinence, your pelvic floor cannot fully control your bladder when your body experiences stress, such as during exercise. This leads to urine leakage. Pelvic floor exercises are the most common treatment for incontinence while exercising.

Bladder training and inserted devices are other possible treatment options. At-home steps such as emptying your bladder before workouts and limiting caffeine can also help.