Tag Archive for: Pilates and Incontinence

Being part of a continuum of care network in and around our Ann Arbor community is an essential part of the wellness experience we provide at MOVE. And we are so grateful for partners like the healthcare professionals at IHA who are committed to providing people with opportunities to have open discussions about their health.

A special women’s health series event on menopause

On Tuesday, May 14, MOVE and IHA are co-sponsoring a free event at MOVE Wellness in Ann Arbor focused on managing menopause. To help frame our conversation for that evening, two of the event’s speakers offer their initial thoughts on menopause and sexual health, and their connection to overall wellness. Event details can be found below as well.

Common myths and misconceptions about menopause

Having open conversations about powerful phases of our lives is important to us at MOVE. There are so many women’s issues that simply don’t get afforded the time and honest treatment they deserve. Being able to have in-depth discussions about issues like menopause is empowering. It helps women care for themselves and live healthier, happier lives.

A conversation with Elaine and Bridget


Menopause is a remarkably profound phase of life for women. For many, it coincides with children leaving home and the fundamental effect that has on our identity. It’s also characterized by reflection and can lead to more substantive considerations of our quality of life.

Dr. Long, what are four or five of the biggest misconceptions or myths about menopause that you see or hear regularly?


First and foremost, that life will never be the same and that menopause is something to dread. And that’s underscored by additional misconceptions such as “my sex life is over” and “it’s too late to get healthy or lose weight.” Many women also believe that prescription hormone replacements are dangerous, which isn’t the case, and meanwhile ignore abnormal uterine bleeding during menopause when they should be having it evaluated.

All of these myths can cause harm to women because they can lead to a range of health issues including depression, fatigue, osteoporosis, cardiac disease and even cancer in some cases.


How individual of an experience is menopause for each woman?


Although many symptoms are commonly shared, menopause is a completely unique experience for each woman.

Increasing strength and health during and after menopause


In my 20 years as a trainer, I’ve seen countless women at age 50 or older get as strong as they’ve ever been in their lives through Pilates and GYROTONIC®.  Every one of them wished they had started ten years earlier because of the powerful impact on their fitness and strength. So, I’ve seen firsthand the misconception that you can’t be fit and healthy after this phase of your life proven wrong.

We have female and male clients we train with who are in their 50s, 60s, and 70s and even some at 80 or 90 who have been working with us for 10 years, many of whom feel as fit as they’ve ever been in their lives. And it’s such a gift for our team to be a part of that experience.

Do you have a specific example of a patient you’ve worked with who successfully moved past one of those misconceptions about menopause and how she did it?  


I specifically remember a delightful patient in her late 50s who was moderately overweight and had a family history of osteoporosis. Her bone density showed significant osteopenia, which is bone loss. After extensive counseling regarding her life risk of cardiovascular disease and bone fracture, both of which had the potential to limit her independence, she chose to join a gym and work with a trainer who designed a program customized for her needs. She presented to my office a year later and told me she felt like her life had been saved. She realized that what she ate and what she did had major impacts during menopause.

She was happy she’d lost weight, but mostly she was happy about being strong. She was really enjoying life as she headed into her 60s, maybe more than ever before.

Overcoming the stigma and fear of menopause


“Menopause” can be such a loaded word. Do you find that the word itself is a stumbling block for women? Do you ever find yourself working to help women redefine the word? Or do you find yourself steering them toward a different word or phrase entirely like “sexual health”?


From what I’ve seen, the word sparks dread in women. I try to explain to them that menopause is simply a life phase – much like puberty. It can be miserable, or it can be empowering if you embrace it and take control of it.

Menopause is a time in life, perhaps more than any other,  when you “reap what you sow.” If you prioritize a healthy lifestyle, the benefits are significant. If you don’t, the problems can be exponential.

Managing menopause with family members


As a woman married to a man living in a house with my three sons, I’ve worked hard to help them understand the various cycles and phases in a woman’s life so that they might be in touch with any of their own life transitions.  And it isn’t easy. Because the cultural pressure to qualify what being a woman is or isn’t or should or shouldn’t be is complicated. But I keep it simple and try to share the biochemistry of the process to help normalize conversations and topics.  

Can you talk a little bit about the role of family for women experiencing menopause, particularly when it comes to any men in our lives?


Relationships, particularly with a partner during menopause, require a lot of communication. It’s challenging, and I find that women often just give up. I feel that having the opportunity for open communication with their physician and realizing there are options to ease this transition can be life-changing. Intimacy is important and can make for a happier life, but I always tell my patients that they can define that intimacy with their partner. And it’s not the same for everyone.

The role of community in aging and menopause


How important do you think having access to a supportive community is for women experiencing menopause?


It’s incredibly important. There is power in numbers, and opportunities to learn from one another.  It makes us realize that we’re normal.


I completely agree. Connecting with other supportive and accepting women helps in so many ways. And I believe that building a supportive community around fitness can help with accountability and troubleshooting. We love watching women support each other in classes as they move deeper into the Pilates repertoire. We regularly hear them say that they’re doing things they never thought they could do.

The relationship between sexual health and physical activity

Can you talk a bit about the relationship between women’s sexual health as they age and physical activity? What are the benefits of movement for women experiencing various symptoms and challenges related to menopause?


There’s a direct relationship between physical activity and sexual health. The endorphins make us feel good, and exercise makes us feel good about ourselves. Women are complex, especially when it comes to sex drive. We need to feel “sexy” and good about ourselves.


Agreed. Our mission is to help people move their bodies in ways that they enjoy so that they can lead a life they love. Research shows that we commit to those healthy behaviors that we enjoy and that make us feel good.

This has impacted me personally. Feeling strong and moving my body in ways I enjoy, rather than how I feel I “should” has impacted how I feel about myself overall. It feels a bit like shedding a skin, leaving behind the pressure to conform. It’s wonderful to experience what we’re always working to help other women feel at MOVE. What a gift.

What movement instructors and trainers can do to help during menopause


Do you have any advice for movement instructors working with women experiencing the symptoms of menopause? What can movement professionals do to better support clients in this space?


I think as our bodies transition through menopause, movement that focuses on core muscle retention and flexibility is most important for maintaining our health and feeling good. Keeping our pelvic floors strong and working to maintain abdomen and back muscles are super important.


Right, and from the training perspective, there are clear dos and don’ts which is why working with instructors and trainers with a deep knowledge of the body and these issues is so important. For example, many people are afraid to exercise after menopause if they’ve received an osteoporosis diagnosis. But with proper, safe training, you can actually mitigate further bone loss.

Demystifying pelvic floor health and the role of Pilates and GYROTONIC® method


What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about pelvic floor health?  


It requires maintenance like any other set of muscles in your body. You must exercise it to maintain its strength.  


I couldn’t agree more. Pelvic floor health is important, and often misunderstood in everyday practice. Especially because each woman’s body and how she carries it is unique. Many women do a ton of kegel exercises, which could help in particular instances, but could also cause more of a problem in others. As Pilates and GYROTONIC® instructors, we work to help women at all stages of life understand how to care for their pelvic floors in a more organic way. Improper training can lead to low back pain, SI joint instability and other issues.

What are some of the other resources available to women experiencing sexual health challenges that you’d like to see more people take advantage of?


IHA has started a new genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) program that I feel is incredibly innovative in its approach to managing sexual health during menopause. Our consultants will discuss symptoms, causes and management of sexual problems in menopause with patients.


That’s actually great to hear. Quite often we hear women (who may not have even mentioned incontinence when they started working with us) say after a few weeks or months of training that they no longer “sneeze and pee.” Which is a funny diagnostic, but also a very pragmatic one.  Pilates and GYROTONIC® help with this because they focus on organizing breathing and spinal movement to support core training.

Why is tackling this particular topic important to you personally?


I am now a menopausal woman. Life is short, and I want to enjoy every day of it!


Yes! As a woman experiencing perimenopause, I feel like the last year has brought a wave of new physical experiences and symptoms, many of them surprises, and all of which have made it necessary for me to stop and reevaluate the “why” behind my own fitness and movement.

If you could provide women with one simple takeaway about menopause and their sexual health, what would it be?  


That there is help! Managing the symptoms requires work, but the rewards are well worth it.

The healing power of movement

By working toward a healthy relationship with their bodies, women can move through menopause with the strength and knowledge they need to care for themselves and celebrate the power and beauty in their bodies during this unique phase of life.

It’s also important to remember that slow and steady wins the race for healthy behaviors and a joyful life. Moving slowly and intentionally as we take steps to move more, eat well and love our bodies for all that they’ve done for us is foundational … at any stage of life.

We hope you’ll join us for this very special evening of honest conversation, empowerment and perhaps even enlightenment.

Managing Menopause: Improving Your Sexual Health

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

6 p.m. – Wine & hors d’oeuvres, 6:30 – 9 p.m. – Presentation

Location: MOVE Wellness Studios, 3780 Jackson Rd., Ann Arbor, Michigan


Elaine Economou, MOVE Wellness co-founder and CEO

Jody Jones, MD, IHA Canton Obstetrics & Gynecology

G. Bridget Long, MD, IHA Associates in Gynecology & Obstetrics – West Arbor

Lisa Morris, MD, IHA Associates in Gynecology & Obstetrics – Arbor Park & Brighton

Topics: Vaginal pain with intercourse, vaginal atrophy, MonaLisa Touch® treatments, pelvic floor dysfunction, mindfulness and breathing exercises

Register for the event today.

Interested in learning more about how MOVE can help you start your own health and wellness journey through movement? Sign up for an introductory package today or contact us at 734-761-2306 or office@movewellness.com.

Urinary Incontinence – Are You Among the 1 in 3?

Urinary Incontinence – are you familiar with these words? I am sure you have heard the joke – “laugh until you leak” or seen the commercials for “discrete pads for women”.  Odds are, if you are a woman, then you or someone close to you is dealing with incontinence on a daily basis. Studies have shown that 1 in 3 women suffer from urinary incontinence – which is an uncontrollable loss of urine.  There are two main types of urinary incontinence. Stress urinary incontinence which is when you “leak” when you cough, laugh, sneeze etc, and urge urinary incontinence which is the “gotta go” feeling some women experience and are then unable to hold their urine.  It is also possible to have a little bit of both types of incontinence which is referred to as mixed urinary incontinence. You may have heard from friends or read online that at certain times in your life incontinence is inevitable, like when you are pregnant, if  you have had multiple children, if you are nearing menopause, or if you are a runner. Well, I have great news for you! You are not destined to have “leaky faucets” just because you fall into any of these categories. There are steps you can take to help improve and even resolve incontinence.

Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor

The key to helping to gain your life back from incontinence lies in a few muscles that most people are unaware they have, or unaware of their function…the pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is a network of muscles that spread across the bottom of your pelvic cavity like a hammock. They have many functions including supporting the pelvic organs such as the uterus, bladder, and rectum. They also help to withstand increases in pressure that occur in the abdomen with activities such as coughing and sneezing, and they help to enhance the sexual response. These are the muscles you are targeting when doing kegels. Many women have probably heard of kegels, but did you know that studies have shown that most women are unable to perform a proper kegel contraction without some education? It takes diligence, awareness, and practice to perform an effective pelvic floor contraction or a kegel.

How Pilates & Gyrotonic Targets the Pelvic Floor

At MOVE Wellness Studios in our Pilates and GYROTONIC sessions, the pelvic floor is a target of our connection to the “core” and we cue and train the contraction of these muscles as regular part of our private sessions and classes.  You learn how to do this in your first session and we work to build tone of the pelvic floor and other related muscles.  As small, local stabilizing muscles, it takes a little bit of time and focus to “feel” this area of our body work but quite often, learning to breathe in a way that supports toning the pelvic floor has other benefits such as releasing stress, relieving low back pain and building core strength.

Kegel Exercise to Strengthen the Pelvic Floor

  • Sit on a flat surface like a chair or bench with a rolled up towel or pillow between your knees.
  • Take a few breaths releasing your shoulders and sitting up tall with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Take a breath in to prepare and on your first exhale gently squeeze the towel.  Notice the area of your pelvis that is in contact with the chair.
  • On your second exhale, try to lift the center of your body off the chair, while gently squeezing the towel.  Do not contract  your large gluteus muscles but keep the focus more to the center and keep it very gentle.
  • Hold the contraction for the length of your breath, relax and inhale and do it again.
  • Repeat 10 breaths, twice per day.

Note: this is just a basic introductory exercise and if you have pain or any other symptoms after practicing it, discontinue it and get help from your physical therapist or doctor.

Physical therapy can be a great option for women who are suffering from incontinence that is more severe and truly impacting their quality of life. A pelvic floor physical therapist has special knowledge in the anatomy and function of the pelvic floor and how dysfunction in this area can lead to issues such as incontinence. Your pelvic floor physical therapist will assess your pelvic and lumbar spine alignment, as well as the strength, endurance, and function of your pelvic floor along with related musculature such as your core and gluteal musculature. They will then identify areas of dysfunction to help formulate a treatment plan geared specifically to your needs to help decrease your incontinence and get you back to living your life without the hassles of urinary incontinence.

For more information, join us on May 4th at 5:30PM for Incontinence Night at MOVE Wellness Studios. Click here for more information.

This post was authored by Stephanie Hemker, PT, DPT and Elaine Economou, PMA-CPT