Exercise & IC
Being active and getting yourself up and moving is important when you have interstitial cystitis (IC). Regular exercise helps maintain your heart, lungs, muscles, bones, joints, bowel, and brain function. The health of your bladder also depends on good blood flow to the area and on having flexible and strong muscles around your bladder and other pelvic organs to protect and support them.
If you weren't particularly active before you got IC, adding some exercise into your life can help you feel better.
If exercise was a part of your life before your diagnosis of IC, be confident that although you may not be able to have the same exercise routine, you can get an active lifestyle back! Try these gentle exercises:
- Low impact aerobics
- Tai Chi
- Pilates for IC
Though there is no set "IC-friendly" exercise program, many IC patients report that these gentle exercises are helpful. Start slowly and try different routines to see what works for you. A physical therapist who is knowledgeable about treating pelvic pain can also help you choose exercises that target your specific needs which are at lower risk of flares.
A good exercise program includes three types of exercise:
- Flexibility training
- Aerobic conditioning
Just as with pelvic floor physical therapy, it’s important to learn to relax muscles and increase flexibility before you strengthen or do aerobic conditioning. Stretching can also help release pelvic floor and other muscle tension that can add to pain.
When you do aerobic conditioning and strengthening, avoid motions and surfaces that jar your body, heavy straining, and excessive stretching, which can lead to flares. High-impact exercises, like running and step classes, are often more problematic for IC patients than lower-impact exercises like rollerblading or using an elliptical machine. Swimming is another option to get low impact exercise, however for some IC patients the chemicals in pools can cause problems, so try out the pool in small doses before you try a longer exercise session to see how your body reacts, or try to find a pool that uses alternative methods of disinfection.
The take home message for exercising with IC is to start slowly and listen to your body. Keep trying and you will find an exercise regime that works for you.
Revised July 18, 2012