Is Crossfit Safe for My Pelvic Floor?

Well, well, well! You’re just learning all kinds of awesome stuff here on this blog! I want to direct your attention to something I’m passionate about. Crossfit. Let me tell you why: 

It meets the required recommendation by Centers of Disease Control of: 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, muscle strengthening, of moderate or high intensity at least 2 days per week.  

It is an excellent form of cross training. You get cardio, strength, endurance, agility, but most importantly? You are building mental strength and endurance by doing things you’ve never thought you could. You realize what your body is truly capable of.  

I love having the opportunity to treat my clients that are Crossfit athletes and that’s why I’m writing this out. I read a research article, which is referenced at the end, and I wanted to make sure I explain it!  

First, let’s start with some terminology: 

  • Intraabdominal pressure: is the pressure within the abdominal cavity.  
  • Parous: bearing offspring (having kids) 
  • Nulliparous: has never given birth. 
     

So, the article is titled, “Intraabdominal Pressure in Women During CrossFit Exercises and the Effect of Age and Parity”.  

 And they were trying to see if whether having children or not, age, and performing Crossfit had an affect on the intraabdominal pressure, therefore affecting your pelvic floor. It actually was conducted really well. I do hope to see in the future more participants, as this one only had 10 total participants.  

BUT.. Let’s get into what it said: 

  • There is a study from 2016 that said 24% of women have pelvic floor dysfunction. I believe this is much more because MANY of us do not report the symptoms or say we are having a problem.  
  • Urinary incontinence is costing the US 12.4 BILLION DOLLARS.  
  • They had 5 women who regularly practiced Crossfit, 5 women who had not for at least a year. Some were parous, some were nulliparous.  
  • The workouts included: burpees, back squats, deadlifts, front squats, kettlebell swings, pull ups, push ups, sit ups, thrusters, and more. 
  • The participants chose their own weight. There were Crossfit coaches present. 
  • Significant INCREASE in intrabdominal pressure with backsquats during repetitions 
  • Decrease in pressure with repetition of sit ups (this was actually pretty important--> if you are doing a core exercise and your decreasing intraabdominal pressure when you continue doing them....guess where the pressure is going? Yep, your pelvic floor!) 
  • Double unders had the highest increase of intraabdominal pressure 

What I learned for what I do: 

  • Different types of exercises contribute to different changes in intraabdominal pressure. This means I need to be focusing on IAP DIFFERENTLY with my clients during each different exercise.  
  • It is SUPER IMPORTANT to work with my clients through fatigue due to changes with repetitions 
  • Education on sit ups to become more frequent due to increased pelvic floor pressure and decreased core pressure even though it’s a core exercise
     

Does this change how I feel about Crossfit? Absolutely NOT. All it tells me is that women need to be educated on what is occurring with EACH EXERCISE and how to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction but continue to exercise and reach their goals.  

I find often, that we just do not know how to manage or control our pelvic floor function or IAP with our activities. See a Pelvic PT who is trained in Crossfit/high level athletes specifically to help you with this!!!! 

References

The article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5997050/ 

https://www.rch.org.au/rchcpg/hospital_clinical_guideline_index/Intraabdominal_Pressure_Monitoring/ 

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