The Effects Of Running On The Pelvic Floor

   By WIN Contributor: Tania Mannella, Doctor of Physiotherapy 

Running is a high impact exercise.  Our body takes on that impact for a prolonged period of time.  As the heel strikes, the ground reaction force travels up the leg to the pelvic area. The pelvic floor muscles will contract on each heel strike (~ 3000 times/30 min run) to cushion this force. The abdominals tighten, increasing pressure on bladder.  Over time, excess pressure and this repetitive force can weaken the pelvic floor muscles (PFM). Weak pelvic floor muscles can be linked to the development of different urogenital symptoms.


Here are some tips to reduce the effects of running on the PFM:


Avoid constant running on hard surfaces.  Include softer running surfaces such as grass, gravel and sand.

Put some variety in your workouts - Alternate running with low impact exercise (ie: cross trainer, elliptical machines, cycling/spin classes).

Reduce downhill running when possible – this increases impact and jarring on PFM.

Reduce stride length - shorter stride length may help to reduce some of the physical impact. This may reduce the force on the heel when striking the ground.

Try water runningit’s an excellent form of low impact running.

Limit distance - the longer the running distance, the more repeated the impact on PFM.

Control body weight - The more body weight, the more load on the pelvic floor when you run.

Not feeling well? – Take a break.  Avoid running when fatigued.  PFM work best when the body is well rested.

Do PFM exercises to build long term strength to withstand the pressure of exercise.

Tighten PFM during and after any activity that makes you leak… For example, when rising from a chair or coughing.

Perform these exercises daily to optimize PF strength and the support for your pelvic organs. 


But MOST importantly, see your WIN Health Pelvic Physiotherapist for a thorough assessment and guidance that is individualized for you!