Can Running Cause Bladder Problems?

Incontinence happens to many athletes, but it’s almost never talked about outside the context of memes and message boards. Specifically, stress incontinence is what happens when fluid leaks out of the bladder during physical stressors. Running - if you haven’t guessed it yet - is one such stressor that can cause stress incontinence and other bladder problems.

Can Running Cause Bladder Problems?

The short answer is yes, however, it’s a manageable condition and doesn’t just happen to runners. Continue reading to discover how to manage stress incontinence more effectively.

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is urine leakage, usually minimal, and happens when the bladder undergoes any physical stress - such as lifting weights or running. It can happen to anyone, and it doesn’t have to be a permanent problem for it to be an inconvenience.

Many runners will wonder:

  • Why is my bladder leaking while running?
  • What can I do to have better bladder control?
  • Does it indicate anything serious about my health?

Stress Incontinence: It Can Happen To Anyone

Stress incontinence can happen to anyone. Being physically active, older, or putting stress on your bladder can increase the likelihood of having this condition. Physical activity, age, and bladder stress can all contribute to the development of this condition. Exercise, being older, or experiencing bladder pressure can raise the chances of having this condition.

The problem can be minimal but if not addressed, can become a more serious concern.

Why Running Causes Bladder Problems

Running triggers bladder discomfort (and occasional incontinence) because of its physical stress on pelvic floor muscles. Weak pelvic floor muscles make temporary urinary incontinence more likely to happen and are more common in women.

Running is a high-impact and high-stress activity. You can’t always stop to relieve yourself in the middle of a race!

Symptoms of Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence happens during high-stress physical activities. The up-and-down movements of running puts pressure on the bladder.

If you continue experiencing incontinence or it varies in intensity, see a doctor. Other conditions can worsen incontinence. Usually, incontinence on its own isn’t painful or uncomfortable. If it is, you should get an examination to establish the underlying cause.

What Can You Do About Urinary Incontinence?

The first step is noticing when it happens!

Start by adjusting your fluid intake. Drink less water (or drink water at a different time than you normally would). However, don’t risk dehydrating in an attempt to relieve yourself. That’s counterproductive for any sporting amateur or professional.

Next, you can do pelvic floor exercises, known as Kegel exercises. These exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and reduce the likelihood of incontinence.

The final step is to see a urology specialist. A urologist can help determine the right steps to control, minimize, or stop bladder leaks and their impact.

There can be other potential causes of stress incontinence. Seeing a professional can help you determine the cause. For example, bladder infections can cause many of the same symptoms, though more permanent and uncomfortable.

Can You Take Medication For Running Bladder Problems?

Sometimes, yes. It depends on what’s causing your specific type of incontinence. It can be related to running or caused by other problems such as a urinary tract infection.

See a professional rather than guessing at your symptoms.

Most cases of running and bladder problems are temporary, but they can also have other causes. Sometimes the bladder’s lining is naturally thickened, leading to a higher likelihood of incontinence and other issues.

Speak to your doctor to examine what’s triggering your specific condition. Some people have turned to deep breathing and relaxation techniques to help with the strong urge to urinate.


The attentive, compassionate physicians, providers, and staff at Adult Pediatric Urology & Urogynecology are committed to providing innovative, quality patient care in our state-of-the-art facility.

From screening and prevention to treatment and recovery, our health professionals will be there for you. Our team of dedicated physicians has been serving residents of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota for more than 25 years.

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