ABOUT THE 5 HEALTHY HABITS

The Continence Foundation of Australia encourages older Australians to invest time in 5 healthy habits to help prevent incontinence. These 5 healthy habits are important for Bladder and Bowel Health.

These habits include a healthy diet and staying hydrated, 30 minutes of exercise every day and good toilet habits. 

Webinars on each of the 5 healthy habits can be viewed. These include topics such as increasing dietary fibre in cooking without losing flavour, making exercise part of your day, and how to keep your pelvic floor in shape.

View the 5 healthy habits and our webinars below.

Habit 1 – Stay Active

Healthy Habit 1 - Stay ActivePhysical activity is beneficial for overall health – and that includes bladder and bowel function!  Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. This doesn’t have to be all at once. Activities like gardening, cleaning, playing with the grandkids, and taking the stairs all add up.

Making a move in the right direction, not matter how small, can make a big difference.

• Aim to exercise for 30 minutes most days.  Exercise stimulates movement of the bowel, and even gentle exercise, like walking helps; and

• Do your pelvic floor muscle exercises regularly.  Obesity, pregnancy, childbirth, regular heavy lifting and a chronic cough can all weaken the pelvic floor, but you can strengthen these muscles with specific exercises.

Activity and your continence

Keeping active is important at any age. Physical activity of any type is beneficial to overall health and for bladder and bowel function.

This webinar explores the relationship between physical activity and bladder and bowel function, and how you can be active regardless of where you are. The session includes guest presenter Sharon Kelly who provides ideas on easy ways for people with all levels of fitness to be physically active, without specialist gear.

Presenter: Lisa Lawton, Health Promotion Officer for SA and NT, Continence Foundation of Australia

Guest speaker: Sharon Kelly, Pilates and Seated Aerobics Instructor, COTA NT

Habit 2 – Eat Well

Healthy Habit 2: Eat WellFibre in your diet will help improve bowel function and avoid constipation. Fibre is found in foods such as multi grain or whole grain breads, cereal products, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Aim to eat two servings of fruit, five servings of vegetables and five servings of cereals and breads each day.

You are what you eat, and eating well can make a world of difference to how we feel and how our bodies operate.

• Eat plenty of fibre, this improves bowel function by absorbing water and adding bulk to your bowel motions.  Bulky stools keep things moving through your bowel to avoid constipation.  Fibre is found in many foods including multigrain or whole grain breads, cereals and cereal products, fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds

• Eat 2 servings of fruit, 5 servings of vegetables and 5 servings of cereals/(wholemeal) breads each day.

Tip: A high fibre diet means will require you to drink plenty of fluid as the fibre needs water to bulk up your bowel motions.

Habit 3 – Get enough fluids and drink well

Healthy Habit 3 - Drink SmartIt’s important to increase fluids when you increase fibre in your diet. Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated helps maintain digestive health. Drinks that contain caffeine, cola and alcohol can irritate your bladder, so water is the best choice.

While our tendency when dealing with bladder and bowel problems might be to restrict our liquid intake, this is actually the opposite of what we should do.

• Aim to drink an adequate amount of fluid a day, unless otherwise advised by your doctor

• Distribute your intake of drinks evenly throughout the day

• Drink more fluids (preferably water) if the weather is hot, or if you are exercising; and

• Cut down on alcohol, fizzy drinks and drinks with caffeine in them, as they irritate the bladder.

Tip: Don't reduce your fluid intake if you have a bladder control problem, as this will concentrate your urine and make the problem worse. 

 

 

Eat well and drink smart – the building blocks of an independent retirement 

This webinar focuses on why fibre and fluids are so important, particularly as you age. We look at good sources of dietary fibre and fluids and their function. There are tips on how best to include those high fibre foods in your meals as well as ideas for meal choices and snacks.

Presenter: Lisa Maunsell, Health Promotion Officer for NSW and ACT, Continence Foundation of Australia 

Habit 4 – Exercise your pelvic floor

Healthy Habit 4 - Pelvic FloorHaving a strong pelvic floor is your insurance against incontinence. You can train your pelvic floor anytime, anywhere, no matter what sex, gender, age or fitness level you are. 

Try to do your pelvic floor muscles exercises every day, three times a day. See a continence health professional to learn how. 

Making a move in the right direction, not matter how small, can make a big difference.

• Aim to exercise for 30 minutes most days.  Exercise stimulates movement of the bowel, and even gentle exercise, like walking helps; and

• Do your pelvic floor muscle exercises regularly.  Obesity, pregnancy, childbirth, regular heavy lifting and a chronic cough can all weaken the pelvic floor, but you can strengthen these muscles with specific exercises.

 

Why you need to invest in your pelvic floor

A toned pelvic floor is important for bladder and bowel control (continence) and sexual sensation. As a result, people with good pelvic floor strength are in a better position to avoid incontinence and remain independent for longer. 

This webinar explores what the pelvic floor is, how and why to train it, when it may be at risk, and why all of this is even more important as you get older.

Presenter: Patrick Mader, National Health Promotion Officer, Continence Foundation of Australia

Guest speaker: Annabelle Citroen, Physiotherapist, Barwon Health

Habit 5 – Practice good toilet habits

Healthy Habit 5 - Good Toilet HabitsDon't get into the habit of going to the toilet 'just in case’. If you keep emptying your bladder 'just in case' too often, then the bladder may never fill up properly, and shrink a bit. This may give the feeling of needing to go to the toilet more frequently (urge incontinence).

Surprisingly, there are a few things you can do to make your visit to the toilet as effective as possible.  Try these today.

• Go to the toilet when you get the urge to open your bowels, as this is the most effective time to completely empty them.  Most people get the urge first thing in the morning or following a meal when eating has stimulated the bowel.

• Adopt the best posture for sitting on the toilet.  When you sit on the toilet, place your elbows on your knees, lean forward and support your feet with a footstool.  This helps to fully relax your pelvic floor and sphincter muscles. Bulge out your tummy, relax your back passage and let go (don’t hold your breath or strain).  When you have finished firmly draw up your back passage. 

• Avoid constipation, as this affects both bladder and bowel function.  If you often strain to move your bowels, the pelvic floor stretches and weakens over time, impacting bladder control.

• Don't get into the habit of going to the toilet 'just in case'.  Only go when you need to; and 

• Visit your doctor as soon as you suspect a urinary tract infection.

Good toilet habits – the nuts and bolts of bowel and bladder health

This webinar explores what ‘good toilet habits’ are, and why they are so important.  We explore the optimal toileting routine and how your toileting routine can be altered to make things easier for you. Easier and more effective toileting better ensures ongoing continence, which in turn allows you to live independently for longer.

Presenter: Ann Hudson, Manager Health Promotion at the Continence Foundation of Australia

Guest speaker: Merrill McPhee, Helpline Continence Nurse Advisor

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Last Updated: Mon 17, May 2021
Last Reviewed: Tue 17, Mar 2020