The Association of Physical Activity and Urinary Incontinence in US Women: Results from a Multi-Year National Survey

Published:October 09, 2021DOI:



      To evaluate the relationships between physical activity, both work and recreational, and urinary incontinence among women.


      We assessed women aged 20 years and older in 2008-2018 NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) cycles who answered self-reported urinary incontinence and physical activity questions. Weighted, multivariate logistic regression model was used to determine the association between incontinence and physical activity levels after adjusting for age, body mass index, diabetes, race, parity, menopause and smoking.


      A total of 30,213 women were included in analysis, of whom 23.15% had stress incontinence, 23.16% had urge incontinence, and 8.42% had mixed incontinence (answered “yes” to both stress and urge incontinence). Women who engaged in moderate recreational activity were less likely to report stress and urge incontinence (OR 0.79, 95% CI 0.62-0.99 and OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.48-0.90, respectively). Similarly, women who engaged in moderate activity work were less likely to report stress, urge and mixed incontinence (OR 0.84, 95% CI 0.70-0.99; OR 0.84, 95% CI 0.72-0.99; and OR 0.66 95% CI 0.45-0.97, respectively).


      Moderate physical activity and greater time spent participating in moderate physical activity are associated with a decreased likelihood of stress, urge and mixed incontinence in women. This relationship holds for both recreational and work-related activity. We hypothesize that the mechanism of this relationship is multifactorial, with moderate physical activity improving pelvic floor strength and modifying neurophysiological mediators (such as stress) involved in the pathogenesis of incontinence.
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