Nearly ⅓ of men and women in the U.S. are living with urinary incontinence,1 but in some cases, it doesn't have to be permanent. If you are one of the millions living with urge incontinence or overactive bladder, you can retrain your bladder to function in a manner that allows you to live your life with confidence and independence.
Like all muscles in the body, your bladder can be trained to be stronger. Bladder training is not as simple as heading to the gym and lifting weights, but it can be done. Here are some ways to help you work out your bladder and make it strong and reliable again.
Keep a diary
A bladder diary lets you see how your bladder is functioning and helps you track your training progress. Things you should jot down each day include:
- When you urinate
- Time between bathroom trips
- The degree to which you were able to empty your bladder
- Your diet — what you eat and drink, and when
This is where hard work and dedication really come into play. As is the case with training of all kinds, don’t start off too hard. Small progress is still progress.
- Schedule bathroom trips.2 Muscle memory is important. Scheduling your bathroom trips gives your mind and body a pattern to become familiar with. Once you determine how often you currently go to the bathroom, increase the time between trips by 15 minutes. So, if you go every hour, try every hour and 15 minutes. Add another 15 minutes every few days. Your goal should be to go three-four hours between trips — the average interval for someone with a strong bladder.
- Perform Kegel exercises. Named after the doctor who developed them, these exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Having a strong pelvic floor helps keep urine inside the bladder from leaking out.3 Kegel exercises are not just for women, men have a pelvic floor, too. Though men and women have different pelvic anatomy, the steps to doing effective Kegel exercises are the same.
How to do Kegel exercises: 4, 5
- Identify your pelvic floor muscles by trying to stop urination mid-stream. If you can do this, you've found them.
- With an empty bladder, tighten your pelvic floor muscles for five seconds, then relax for five seconds. As you improve over a few days, increase the time to 10 seconds of flexing followed by 10 seconds of relaxing.
- Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. This will likely be difficult to do at first because these other stronger muscles want to compensate for the weaker ones. Don’t clench your teeth or your fists either. The only tension should be that on your pelvic floor.
- Avoid holding your breath. Breathe consciously and naturally.
- Start with five reps on the first day. From there, aim for at least three sets of 10 reps every day.
Get regular exercise. Low-impact, moderate activities like walking briskly, biking and swimming for 30 minutes a day most days each week is enough.6
Unlike training for a marathon run, there’s no diet that can help improve your bladder training performance. But what you put into your body can greatly impact your patterns and the risk of leakage.
- Maintain a balanced diet.7 Your meals don't have to be perfect and snacking is allowed. Just be sure that your overall daily diet includes fruits, vegetables, grains and
- Drink plenty of water. Contrary to what you might think, fewer fluids can lead to more concentrated urine, which irritates the bladder. That can make you have to go to the bathroom more frequently instead of less. Less liquid in your system can encourage bacteria growth, which is a trigger of incontinence.8 You should be drinking eight glasses per day on average.9 It is equally important not to drink too much right before bed.
- Avoid consuming bladder irritants.10 Consider cutting out or cutting back on the following foods and beverages:
- Caffeinated beverages like coffee and soda
- Carbonated beverages
- Artificial sweeteners
- Citrus juice
- Spicy foods
Managing incontinence while bladder training
As you work toward achieving total continence, you’ll still have to manage leakage and maybe even the occasional bigger accident. FitRight Underpads can help protect surfaces like beds and chairs. When you're on the move, FitRight Ultra Underwear for Men and Women will help you stay dry with a design that won't call attention to what you're wearing underneath. As your training advances and your bladder gets stronger, you won't need as much protection. FitRight Bladder Pads (for women) and FitRight Active Male Guards (for men) provide peace of mind, protection and comfort. And both products are individually wrapped so they're convenient for whatever your daily activities may include.
Staying the course
Practice makes perfect. Stick to your training plan for four to six weeks. If you don’t see an improvement, consult your doctor. If you miss a day of kegel exercises or you're struggling to add time between trips to the bathroom, don't get discouraged. Stay positive and committed and do the best you can. Retraining your bladder is no small feat but with patience and determination, it can be an achievable goal.