A Happy Hoo Haa: An 8 week pelvic floor strengthening programme
This wee book, A Happy Hoo Haa, acts as a tool kit to arm against incontinence and to increase confidence in everyday life, across the lifespan. This programme was written as a resource for women to refer to for pelvic floor exercises. The anatomy and exercises have been explained on a ‘need to know’ basis, to build your knowledge but not get you bogged down in unnecessary instruction and information. This straight to the point, compact guide has been written to help you achieve confidence, pelvic floor control and complete freedom in your life.
Over the past 9 years I have worked with clients from all walks of life. Individuals with chronic disease, musculoskeletal complaints, muscle imbalances, poor fitness, post knee and hip replacements and mental health issues. It wasn’t until 4 - 5 years ago that I had unexpected conversations with a number of long term clients, these clients were experiencing issues with incontinence. I was working in my clinic in Hobart, Tasmania where I had been working with these clients for some months by the time it came up in conversation. They had the courage to tell me that they didn’t feel comfortable doing certain exercises due to incontinence. I was shocked that they hadn’t discussed this with me previously or that it was only coming up in conversation at that point.
I recall one client in particular, who was 47 years old at the time. She hadn’t had any children, despite this, at 40 years old she began experiencing incontinence and had to start using diapers. She told me that she hadn’t discussed this issue with her doctor in the past 7 years, I was in shock. In her mind, she had other health issues that were more important to discuss during her doctors’ visits. She was so embarrassed by it and was silently putting band aids over something that was very common, but definitely not normal. My client just accepted it and didn’t know there was anything she could do to resolve the issue.
It was during this season that I had a number of clients with varying degrees of incontinence. I decided to write my clients a 2 week programme to follow at home, which then progressed to exercises suitable to follow on with after the first 2 weeks and that became the programme for weeks 3 and 4 and so on. Eventually I had progressed my clients through to a full 8 week programme, coordinating their core and pelvic floor into functional exercises like push ups and squats, without feeling vulnerable. At each point, I would only progress each client if they had experienced an improvement in their incontinence. After only doing my programme for 3 weeks, my 47 year old client came into my office one day and with delight told me that her bladder leakage had improved by 50 – 60% and she hadn’t had to buy as many diapers as usual. She was saving money and feeling better about herself. It made my day and it’s these successes in my line of work as an exercise physiologist that I love. Helping others to live a better life in the one body that they have. My client was determined to improve as much as possible and within her ability.
I feel that a lot of women aren’t aware of their pelvic floor and how to strengthen it. Many would be aware of kegels and ‘squeezing’ when they are sitting at the traffic lights, but there are more exercises which will isolate smaller movements within the pelvis. It’s also a topic that isn’t discussed as much as it should be.
I recall discussing this issue with the manager of an aged care facility in Hobart in 2014 and being stunned to hear how they reported the incidence of urinary incontinence to be as high as 90% in their facility (with varying levels of severity). Many residents had dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and this presented a very difficult situation, almost impossible to improve. I would go into some of these facilities to discuss practical ways to reduce incontinence and educate residents on exercises. However, this was only beneficial for those that were able to comprehend and apply the tools I was providing to them.
Returning to the story of my 47 year old client, it is a common misconception that you won’t experience incontinence if you haven’t had children. This is still possible and can happen to anyone. There is a history of it occurring in young healthy women in their early 20’s and I feel this time in particular is important to educate and empower women to understand how to strengthen and tone the pelvic floor, in preparation for what life has for them, whether it is childbirth or not.
You don't know what you have until you lose it.
Yours in health and wellness,