In the last two issues, I’ve covered weight loss and hormones: both major players in the way our bodies look and feel, which is linked to our mental wellbeing. But of course, there are many more pieces to the puzzle. I want to bring SOCIALight readers an array of fitness-related topics, and include those ones that are I want to ensure I also cover things that are 1) not as talked about and 2) not as well understood. This month’s topics falls into both of these categories: welcome to the world of hypopressive exercise.
Hypopressive literally means low pressure and it is a gentle method of exercise with a focus on breathing with the diaphragm and strengthening the abdominal and pelvic muscles. It’s a technique originally used for help postpartum women improve pelvic floor function after damage caused by pregnancy and childbirth, but its benefits go much further, and apply to both men and women.
Most of us are on social media these days so many of us will have seen plenty of those delightful quotes such as “I laughed so hard I wet myself” or (as I saw yesterday) post: “People cough and worry they have Covid19. I cough & just pray I don’t pi** myself”. Those of you reading this who have been pregnant or have recovered from prostrate surgery may be smiling wryly in recognition. But in truth it really isn’t a smiling matter and if you have ever worried about laughing or sneezing in a public place, hypopressive exercise is your friend.
I can’t tell you how many times female gym members have told me they can’t join in with the star jumps during my class after having kids …. or how often I’ve noticed their need to leg it to the loo immediately after step-ups or burpees. This not just in the immediate postnatal phase, which generally lasts for a few months after birth, but years later. One mother said to me recently “oh, it’s too late for me, I had my kids years ago so I can’t fix it now”. But this is absolutely not true! And it frustrates me to think about all the people, men and women, who miss out on bouncing on trampolines or jogging after a football with their kids and grandkids.
Stress urinary incontinence is caused by the muscles resting in a hypertonic, or overly flexed state. This basically means the pelvic floor muscles have become weakened or stretched. It can occur as a result of weight gain, childbirth, surgery, or other conditions that stretch the muscles as you age. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking or treating a chronic cough may improve symptoms. But hypopressive exercise is a really effective and non-interventionist way to strengthen muscles and regain control.
Nikki Scott is a health and fitness coach, nutritionist and level 5 remedial and sports massage therapist. Her passion for fitness became her dream job not long after she gave birth to twin boys. It was during her pregnancy that she realized that there wasn’t really a great deal of choice of specialist exercise for people in her situation, and very few appropriate classes. Her curiosity lead her into researching hypopressives, which effectively combines general fitness to tone and strengthen the core with especially useful pelvic floor training. Nikki trained in London to become a hypopressive instructor, becoming one of the first to qualify in 2012. She continues to be thrilled by the results she sees when she works with clients.
“Most traditional exercise techniques are HyPERpressive, which means that they increase internal pressure – that’s how they work, of course”, Nikki told me when I spoke to her, “but the thing about pressure is that it will find your weakest spot. That’s why pressure caused by injury, too much training, or having a baby can lead to urinary incontinence, hernias and even pelvic organ prolapse. And often traditional exercise techniques cannot help, because they rely on conscious muscle contraction.”
“The core is designed to work at a subconscious level, so it can be effective throughout daily life, not just when you are exercising,” she continued. “It needs to kick into action if you have to suddenly run for a bus, or swoop in to pick up your child when they fall over. It needs to work without you thinking about it. HyPOpressive exercises decrease or reduce internal pressure, to the thoracic, abdominal, and pelvic areas of the body. They re-programme the core muscles, which are vital to managing pressure both consciously and subconsciously, and they increase their resting tone and involuntary function. In other words, the core, including the pelvic floor, starts to work again as it was designed to – without you having to think about it.”
For me, parts of my job – for example standing in front of a group of gym members and demonstrating burpees – really really require me to be confident that my body is not going to let me down. My own experience with hypopressive exercise has convinced me of its value. It provides a safe and effective way to train those muscles needed to withstand any problematic pressure that can result from our everyday living or exercise, and allow us to safely and confidently continue doing the activities we love.
I hope you all have a wonderful, fit and healthy September. If you would excuse me now, my kids are calling me from the trampoline in the garden – I need to go and do some bouncing myself…
Hypopressives are easy to learn if you have the right teacher, but they are also easy to get wrong, so it’s really important that you seek out a qualified instructor to teach you. Nikki would be delighted to offer all Socialight readers the chance for a free trial by booking through the web link: