Exercising and Incontinence

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Exercising and Incontinence
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As you age, your body tends to break down a bit, resulting in some functional miscues. Incontinence is just one such example. Some exercises will help you to strengthen your muscles and control this bodily function, which could result in a reduction -- or possibly the elimination -- of this condition. To help you, Jenn Zerling, MS, CPT, author of "Breaking the Chains of Obesity, 107 Tools," based in Beverly Hills, Calif., shares 10 exercises to help prevent incontinence.

Kegel Exercises
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Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises are great because you can do them anywhere and at any time. "Daily kegels can help strengthen the muscles 'you know where' to decrease incidences of incontinence," Zerling says. To do a kegel, picture an elevator in your pelvic floor muscles -- which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum -- starting the elevator at the bottom, she says. Draw the elevator up, and hold at the top floor before releasing the muscles slowly to the starting position. Repeat often.

Related: Kegel exercises: A how-to guide for women

Posterior Pelvic Tilts
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Posterior Pelvic Tilts

"This exercise teaches you how to engage your core muscles so you can incorporate this into all of your gym movements," Zerling says. "When one's lumbar-pelvic-hip complex of muscles is engaged, the muscles develop strength in that region." Lying on the floor with your feet hip-distance apart, draw your navel in toward your spine while tilting your pelvis toward the sternum, flattening your lower back to the floor. Squeeze the muscles in your trunk and hips, and then slowly release. Repeat the exercise 15 times.

Bridge Pose
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Bridge Pose

"Strengthening the muscles of the hamstrings, glutes and lower back can help alleviate hip muscle weakness," Zerling says. Start on your back, with your feet hip-distance apart and your knees facing forward. Start with a tilt and while holding that position, lift your hips while grounding the weight through your feet. Keep your knees parallel to one another with your hands on your hips or the floor. Come out of the bridge slowly, and repeat an upward and downward movement for 15 reps.

Opposite Arm/Leg Extension

Zerling says this exercise improves your core and trunk stability, which is integral for other exercises. Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees hip-distance apart. With your hips completely squared, extend your right leg toward the back wall. Lift your opposite arm straight out toward the front wall. Crunch your body inward to bring your left elbow in to meet your right knee through the center of your body. Extend your limbs, and repeat the crunch/extension 10 times. Repeat on the opposite side.

Spinal Rollups

Zerling recommends this exercise because it will strengthen your trunk and lumbar-pelvic-hip-stabilizer muscles. Start on your back with your hands at your sides and your feet hip-distance apart. Flatten lower back to the ground. Exhale as you curl up with your hands reaching toward the front to a full situp position. One vertebra at a time, lower yourself to floor with your core tightly engaged. If this is too aggressive, reach up and touch your hands to your knees to decrease the range of motion, and lower one vertebra at a time.

Single-Leg Balance With Biceps Curls

"Strengthening the muscles in the hips and the glutes while working in a compound fashion improves balance and stability," Zerling says. Stand on a single leg with your arms down. Ground through your standing foot, and draw your belly button up and in toward your spine. Lift slightly through your chest while keeping your lower back neutral. Push down through your standing foot. Once balanced, do biceps curls. Keep your shoulders drawn down and away from your ears. Do 10 to 15 reps on each leg.

Plank to Downward Dog

Zerling says this is another excellent compound exercise. Start with your hands on the ground and shoulder-distance apart with your weight pushed back onto your heels, which are hip-distance apart. Slowly roll your weight forward to high plank with your hands remaining directly under your shoulders and the rest of weight on your toes. Once you pause in high plank, hollow your belly and exhale as you push your weight back onto your heels for Downward-Facing Dog. Do 10 to 15 reps.

Closed-Leg Squats

Zerling likes this exercise because it helps achieve a neutral spine and hip alignment. With dumbbells to your sides, bring your feet together where the big toes, heels and knees touch. Sitting your hips back to a 90-degree angle at the knees, keep your knees aligned over your ankles. Come to a standing position by driving your weight through your feet. Descend into the squat or chair pose. Keep your back in neutral alignment, and avoid arching your lower back at all times.

Lateral Walks With Tubing

Place rubber tubing securely under your feet, and hold tubing handles with your arms locked to your sides. Draw your shoulders down. Take a giant step to the right, and slowly bring your left leg in to follow, with your left leg hip-distance apart. Repeat for 15 reps and switch direction. "This is a dynamic exercise that hits the hip-stabilizing muscles, which can ultimately improve a person’s awareness of muscle groups that are responsible for decreased incontinence," Zerling says.

Use an Elliptical Trainer

For a cardiovascular workout, Zerling recommends using an elliptical trainer because it is closed-chain and non-jarring. "A non-jarring cardio routine will minimize incidences of incontinence while protecting the joints," she says. When choosing a workout, Zerling suggests interval training to burn fat because too much fat on your body can also cause incontinence.

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