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High impact classes and the pelvic floor

Pelvic Floor First ambassador Marietta Mehanni shows you how to create a pelvic floor safe workout for high impact classes.

The attraction of high impact workouts is the opportunity to expend energy while bouncing around like a teenager. But for some of us, the pelvic floor is not as strong as it was when we were younger.

For a lot of women, the prospect of exercising involves going to the toilet before a class, avoiding fluids beforehand, racing to the toilet during the workout or resorting to wearing pads.

Fortunately, protecting the pelvic floor and high impact workouts needn't be mutually exclusive. While you are working on improving your pelvic floor strength, the following guidelines will assist you with making the right exercise choices during a high impact workout:

Jumping jacks

Jumping your feet out wide will cause discomfort. The alternative is to do side taps, which can be low and stretched out to either side to maintain intensity. The other option is to have your feet together and squat and stretch arms up in a jumping motion without actually lifting your feet off the floor. Performed quickly, this will elevate the heart rate and work the thighs.

Running or jogging

This is particularly challenging if you are exercising on the spot, whereas moving forward seems to be less stressful on the pelvic floor. Running uphill is also a gentler alternative. An alternative is marching on the spot and lifting the knees up with big arm swings. If you must run in a circle, switch it to a low power walk. Your buttocks will get a better workout too.

The kick

This can be performed to the front, side or back. Kicking on the spot is tough on the pelvic floor. The alternative is to lift and kick the leg without the bouncing action. Again, this can be intensified if an alternate arm action is also incorporated.

Hopping or wide-leg knee lifts

The option with hopping is an alternating low impact leg curl action, where you lift the heel to the buttocks. The wide-leg knee lifts can be modified to a narrow-leg knee lift. It is recommended that these moves are performed without the bouncing action that usually accompanies this exercise.

Low impact is not low intensity

It is a common myth that low impact (i.e. no bouncing) is low intensity. Low impact exercises can use the larger muscle groups of the thighs and buttocks more effectively. You simply need to lower the body toward the floor with each move by bending the knees a little more.

High impact exercise is wonderful when you are leak free, but when you are compromised or at risk of pelvic floor dysfunction, the outcome can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. The good news is you can still enjoy a great workout if you follow these suggested alternatives.


Marietta Mehanni is an award-winning Australian presenter with more than 20 years teaching experience in both land and water-based group exercise. Marietta is a Pelvic Floor First ambassador and is passionate about spreading the word about the pelvic floor.

Reproduction of an article published in the PFF eNewsletter, March 2013