Once you get into a fitness routine, it almost becomes second nature to head to the gym, hop on your spin bike, or go for your run. If anything, the challenge becomes dealing with the frustration when you can’t exercise.
If you have an injury or illness, you might have to modify your exercise routine or skip your workout altogether.
For example, something like the flu or stomach bug will definitely put your workout plans to bed, but what about a UTI?
Because UTIs are such a common occurrence, particularly among women, a common question does become: Can you work out with a UTI?
If you are reading this article, you are probably asking yourself, can I work out with a UTI? We will answer that question for you, discuss if you can exercise with a UTI, and give you tips for working out with a UTI.
We will cover:
- What Is a UTI?
- Can You Work Out With a UTI?
- Can You Run With a UTI?
- Can You Lift Weights With a UTI?
- Will Exercise Make a UTI Worse?
- 5 Tips for Exercising With a UTI
Let’s jump in!
What Is a UTI?
A UTI, which is short for a urinary tract infection, is an infection in the urinary tract, somewhere along the ureters between the urethra and the bladder.
Both men and women can get UTIs, but they are much more common in women.
UTIs are caused when bacteria (which often come from the bowel) contaminate the urethra and travel up toward the bladder, multiplying along the way.According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of a UTI include the following:
- Frequency and urgency of urination
- Burning or pain when urinating
- Inability to void the bladder completely
- Voiding small amounts of urine
- Pink, red, or darker urine
- Cloudy urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Generalized pelvic pain
Can You Work Out With a UTI?
One of the first questions many people ask when they get a UTI for the first time is, “Can I workout with a UTI?”
The short answer is yes; in most cases, you can exercise with a UTI.
Exercise isn’t thought to exacerbate the process of bacterial growth in the urinary tract. In fact, some personal trainers and fitness experts say that exercise can help distract you from the discomfort you may be experiencing.
However, depending on the severity of your symptoms, certain types of exercise may be more or less uncomfortable than others.
For example, exercises that push pressure on the crotch or pelvic area, such as cycling, can exacerbate feelings of urgency and burning.
Now that we’ve answered, can you work out with a UTI, and our answer is yes, let’s look at different types of exercise and what would be best to do while you have a UTI.
Can You Run With a UTI?
It should be safe to run with a UTI as long as you don’t have a fever.
Some healthcare providers say the up-and-down jostling of running may encourage the migration of bacteria along the urinary tract. However, most say this isn’t a major cause for concern, especially if you are already treating the UTI.
Just be prepared to make a couple of pit stops during the run.
Can You Lift Weights With a UTI?
Although it is fine to do most types of exercise with a UTI, it’s important to take a few precautions with strength training exercises.
Any exercise wherein you find yourself holding your breath and performing the Valsalva maneuver, or otherwise increasing intra-abdominal pressure, is contraindicated when working out with a UTI.
For example, exercises such as the overhead press, deadlifts, barbell hip thrusts, and squats can increase internal abdominal pressure and can place excessive downward pressure on the bladder and/or cause excessive hip flexion, which also increases pressure on the bladder.
You might find that doing ab exercises with a UTI is just too uncomfortable.
Moreover, it’s really best to avoid them because you don’t want to encourage further bacterial migration into the bladder from the added internal abdominal pressure.
However, if you do try to do core exercises with a UTI, make sure you consciously work hard to breathe slowly and gently throughout.
Easy, controlled breathing will help reduce the buildup of intra-abdominal pressure.
Will Exercise Make a UTI Worse?
Generally speaking, as long as you listen to your body and take a few precautions, working out won’t make a UTI worse and also shouldn’t directly cause a UTI.
The caveats here are mainly that you should try to avoid exercise that puts direct pressure on the urethra (like cycling) or increase interval abdominal pressure significantly with heavy lifting.
It’s also vital to remove damp, sweaty clothing immediately after your workout.
5 Tips for Exercising With a UTI
If you are going to try to exercise with a UTI, here are some tips for working out with a UTI that may help ease discomfort:
#1: Hydrate Well
Even though it can be annoyingly frustrating how often it feels like you have to pee when you have a UTI, it’s no time to skimp on your hydration efforts.
In fact, when it comes to working out with a UTI, your water bottle should be regarded as your greatest ally.
You should make sure you start your exercise session fully hydrated and continue to drink water throughout the workout.
You might not want to be adding more fuel to the fire, so to speak, but even if you end up needing to go to the bathroom more frequently, it’s crucial to stay well hydrated.
The water will help flush bacteria out of the bladder and urethra and is also important for replenishing fluids lost when you sweat.
#2: Stay Near a Bathroom
When you have a UTI, urinary urgency and frequency are basically inescapable, and unfortunately, just because you’re working out doesn’t mean these aggravating symptoms are magically turned off.
To prevent accidents or having to dodge behind the nearest bush, plan to stick by a bathroom whenever you’re working out with a UTI.
If possible, it’s probably easiest to exercise at a gym or at home, where you have ready access to a bathroom at all times. If you are going to exercise outdoors, you might want to stick close to home or run loops around a park with a public bathroom.
Be mentally prepared for the fact that you will probably have to stop at least once or twice during your workout to relieve yourself, depending on the severity of your UTI symptoms and the duration of your workout.
#4: Choose Your Clothing Carefully
It may sound strange, but what you choose to wear can be important when you are exercising with a UTI.
A lot of workout clothes are tight-fitting compression garments, but these are not ideal for working out with a UTI because they can put pressure on the bladder and pelvic organs.
This can not only exacerbate the feeling that you need to urinate, but it can also force more bacteria up into the bladder.
If possible, wear looser clothing that does not place pressure on the belly, crotch, or pelvic area.
Additionally, stick with underwear made from natural fabrics that breathe and wick moisture away from your crotch, such as cotton or bamboo, rather than synthetic polyester or nylon.
#4: Strip Down
Okay, it’s a catchy heading, but also an important tip for working out with a UTI: as soon as your workout is done, you should get out of your sweaty clothing, shower, and put on clean, dry clothes.
Damp, sweaty gym clothes are the ideal breeding ground for bacteria, especially if you’re sitting with moist underwear or have tight compression shorts on.
During a workout, moisture builds in the rectum, vagina, and urethra, all of which are areas that already harbor bacteria.
Furthermore, warm and damp undergarments are also the perfect breeding ground for yeasts and fungi, and when you take antibiotics for a UTI, the risks of fungal growth increase significantly.
You certainly don’t want to contend with a yeast infection on top of a UTI, so remove your sweaty gear as soon as possible, wash down your crotch and buttocks area, and put on loose, breathable underwear.
#5: Listen to Your Body
If you’re experiencing a lot of discomfort while trying to do a workout with a UTI, it’s always best to modify or stop your workout.
The good news is that with antibiotics, UTIs clear up quickly, so even if you have to take a day or two off, you can get back to your exercise routine soon.
If your symptoms persist or you have specific concerns about whether you can work out with a UTI, consult your healthcare provider.
What about working out or going for a run while you have a cold or the flu? Is it recommended?
If you are concerned about your cold symptoms, check out our guide for information on when it’s a good idea, or a bad idea, to run when sick.