How Crossfit Supports Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
CrossFit is currently a fast-growing fitness program, popular for its sense of community, satisfaction and personal motivation. Training includes cardiovascular (running, rope jumping) and weightlifting exercises, performed at high intensity, quickly, repetitively and with limited or no rest. However, when these exercises are performed without adequate guidance, pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) can occur due to the generated impact and increase in intra-abdominal pressure. It’s been well established that female athletes have a higher incidence of urinary incontinence (UI) compared with sedentary women. Studies indicate the prevalence of UI in women who practice CrossFit is 26-84%.
What The Research Shows
A recent study surveying 828 women practicing CrossFit revealed these women may be at risk for pelvic floor dysfunction. Anal incontinence (AI) was the most prevalent symptom of PFD (52.7%). Among the symptoms related to AI, flatus incontinence (FI) was the most reported symptom (93.3%). Women who experience constipation were 1.7 times more likely to have FI, the inability to control gas. There was also an association with training frequency. Women who practice CrossFit more than five times weekly are 3 times more likely to have FI. In total, 20 exercises were noted to bring on symptoms of AI, with the most cited being running (4.7%), Sit Up/V Up (4.5%) and Single Under (2.1%).
Regarding urinary symptoms, urinary incontinence (UI) affected 36% of the women. Amongst these women, most (84.2%) reported having urinary loss during CrossFit practice. Women who had a previous history of vaginal childbirth were 2.1 times more likely to report UI symptoms and 2.4 times more likely to experience urinary loss during CrossFit practice. Additionally, intensive exercise such as CrossFit may increase a woman’s risk for sexual pain.
What Results Have Been Experienced
The results of this study indicate that therapists need to inform women practicing CrossFit about the potential for PFD associated with CrossFit. Therapy programs should include pelvic floor muscle (PFM) exercise to prevent or minimize PFD. Promoting awareness and instructing patients in how to contract the pelvic floor musculature during high-impact exercise can help reduce their risk for pelvic issues and improve wellness. Additionally, pelvic floor muscle training is considered the gold standard treatment for stress urinary incontinence. If a patient would benefit from more specialized PF training or reports current pelvic dysfunction, reach out to an LVHN Pelvic Health Specialist to collaborate care for your patient.
Pisani, G. K., de Oliveira Sato, T., & Carvalho, C. (2020). Pelvic floor dysfunctions and associated factors in female CrossFit practitioners: a cross-sectional study. International Urogynecology Journal, 1-10.