Women Runners at Risk of Peeing in their Pants

Urinary incontinence is the inability to control the urge to pee. Patients describe it as an involuntary passage of urine when one coughs, laughs or sneezes.


It is very common in women occurring at 25 – 51% in all ages. Women are more frequently affected than men.

This loss of bladder control is most often due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and excess body weight. All these contribute to weakness in the muscles in the pelvic area. These muscles are responsible for suppressing the impulse to urinate.

Research is ongoing at the Loyola University Chicago School of Medicine to prove that running may contribute or aggravate urinary incontinence.

Dr. Melinda Abernethy of the Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery warns that “the added stress on the body that comes with running a marathon can cause urinary problems during the race itself or in the future down the road.”

Many high impact activities like running, jumping rope, aerobics, and weight-lifting may actually do more harm because these reduce pelvic floor muscle strength.

Dr. Abernethy’s study aims to show the correlation between endurance running and pelvic floor disorders.

Until her study is finalized, she suggests the following to female marathoners:

  1. Keep track of fluid intake.
  2. Take bathroom breaks especially during long-distance runs.
  3. Do not hold your pee. This can cause bladder control problems, as well as, urinary tract infection.
  4. Limit intake of diuretics like coffee and tea prior to a run to prevent the urge to urinate.
  5. Make it a habit to perform Kegel’s exercises at least ten times a day, before, during and after a run.
  6. Visit your doctor at the earliest sign of urinary incontinence.

If all else fails, there’s always adult diapers to turn to.

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  1. vivs says:

    thank you doc! this is a good reminder to female runners, i will link this blog in FB to spread the message.

    there is a tendency to forego peeing esp in trail runs and ultra marathons, finding a good/secure place to pee is quite a challenge for most female runners… men are soooo lucky! :)